Ken Blackwell

Shocking rhetoric does not a tea partier make, nor do all activists make good candidates.

The movement has matured from protesting government largess on the sidelines to actually passing legislation winnowing it. So, too, must it continue to mature in the selection of candidates.

So here we are.

In Alabama last November, discerning conservatives denied Dean Young the Republican nomination to succeed ex-Rep. Jo Bonner. This was serious evidence that we are getting smarter as a movement.

But once again Tea Party and GOP voters in Alabama are faced with the challenge of a nomination which, if not handled smartly, could harm genuine small government conservative candidates nationwide.

As with the contest between Young (whose campaign hyperbole became a national issue) and now-Rep. Bradley Byrne, the wrong choice in Alabama's sixth district Republican congressional primary could harm Tea Party efforts across the country.

The decision by Congressman Spencer Bachus to forgo reelection in the sixth has triggered an avalanche of Republicans, both announced and lurking, vying to represent the deeply conservative district.

Voters there will soon learn that among that candidate crop is a Young facsimile, whose bombast will likely be assigned to conservatives writ large by Democrats keen to portray the movement as unhinged. The Democrats will discover most of the establishment media all too willing to assist them with this task.

Last week, state Sen. Scott Beason announced he's not running for reelection after 20 years in the state legislature, prompting speculation he will join the sixth district fray.

If he does pursue the seat, it won't be his first attempt. He challenged Bachus two years earlier in the Republican primary but was defeated so handily he failed to win majority support of his hometown.

Should he run again, he will as before appeal to Republicans as the "true conservative" in the race. But let's be clear: shocking rhetoric does not a tea partier make.

Beason found himself in hot water in 2011 when, in the course the course of an FBI investigation into government corruption, was recorded referring to African-Americans as "aborigines." He has since apologized for the comments.

Like Young, whose intemperate comments became a campaign fixture, Beason's missteps could harm the entire conservative moment.

In primaries, our responsibility as conservatives is to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Ken Blackwell

Ken Blackwell, a contributing editor at, is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union and is on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. He is the co-author of the bestseller The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency, on sale in bookstores everywhere..
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