Tea Partier Staves Off Primary Challenge in Koch Country

Todd Tiahrt (left) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (right) at a July debate in Wichita.Mike Hutmacher/AP

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Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) withstood a challenge from his predecessor, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, in a battle for the House district that’s home to Charles Koch, the billionaire GOP donor and industrialist, and his company, Koch Industries. Tiahrt was a close ally of Koch Industries during his House tenure in the ’90s and 2000s, taking in more than $329,000 from the company’s PAC and employees over the course of his career. But Pompeo—whom Tiahrt handpicked to replace him when he ran for US Senate (and lost) in 2010—has since become Koch’s favorite son. The company endorsed Pompeo this time around. Koch’s backing boosted the incumbent’s monetary advantage. As of July 16, Pompeo had raised a little over $2 million, while Tiahrt had only drawn $155,000 (with just $65,000 left in the bank).

Pompeo was the incumbent, but his success is actually a win for the tea party. As a congressman, Tiahrt was a founding member of the House tea party caucus. But for his comeback attempt, he ditched his prior conservative persona and ran as a moderate, even populist Republican, arguing for the reinstatement of earmarks and questioning Pompeo’s support for NSA spying. Conservative groups, including the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, and Americans for Prosperity lined up to support Pompeo, a tea party favorite since he joined the House in 2011. There won’t be a revival of moderate conservatism in Kochland anytime soon.

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