Citizens United Political Victory Fund is endorsing Becky Gerritson, founder of the Wetumpka, Alabama Tea Party, in her bid to defeat incumbent Rep. Martha Roby in the March 1 GOP primary to represent Alabama’s Second Congressional District.
Gerritson electrified the nation when she testified before Congress about IRS abuses of Tea Party groups in 2013.
“Becky Gerritson is exactly what CUPVF looks for in a congressional candidate – she’s a principled conservative and a change agent. In today’s Washington, we require you to be both,” David N. Bossie, President of Citizens United, says.
“By contrast, Congresswoman Martha Roby came to Washington in 2010 and quickly joined the club. These are serious times and America needs conservative leaders in Congress who will stand up to the reckless Obama-Clinton-Sanders agenda and stop kicking the can down the road. If you’re not willing to come to Congress to fight for change and solve major problems, why bother?” Bossie continued.
The Citizens United Political Victory fund is the affiliated PAC of Citizens United.
But Gerritson’s bid to unseat incumbent Republican establishment Roby in Alabama’s March 1 GOP primary has run into a serious problem: lack of cash.
According to end-of-year Federal Election Commission reports, Roby had over $884,000 cash on hand as of December 31, 2015, while Gerritson had only $620.
With three weeks to go until the March 1 primary, Gerritson is relying on a grassroots army of volunteers to close the more than $883,000 cash gap between her campaign and Roby’s.
Despite endorsements from prominent national Tea Party and conservative groups, that support has not translated into significant campaign contributions for Gerritson.
Her campaign, however, remains upbeat.
Cole Muzio, Gerritson’s general consultant, sounded an optimistic note in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News.
Roby is vulnerable, he says, because she is simply not popular.
“On polling, we had a group who provided us with a poll that showed Becky within 9 points of Roby. It was conducted about a month ago,” Muzio tells Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.
“From Day One, Martha Roby has yet to poll above 50 percent in this campaign. Voter dissatisfaction with Roby is extremely high, and Becky is now within striking distance as more and more voters find that they have a true, conservative alternative to their current liberal representative,” Muzio wrote in a recent campaign email to Gerritson’s supporters.
“We’re not putting a whole lot of money into the polling,” Muzio tells Breitbart News.
“Turnout on March 1 will be absolutely key. Our people are motivated and will be turned out,” Muzio noted in that recent email.
Part of Gerritson’s challenge is her relatively late start.
“Becky announced on October 1. Our burn rate is pretty high. It’s been a sprint. Becky’s raised over $130,000. More’s coming in every day,” Muzio says.
Muzio outlined what he sees as Gerritson’s path to victory.
“The campaign has made over 50,000 volunteer phone calls. We’ve done door to door canvassing. We’re right around 10,000 [doors knocked on],” Muzio says.
The Gerritson campaign elaborated on what it says is a robust ground game, as Muzio pointed out in his recent email to supporters:
Our campaign has built an unprecedented ground game in District 2. We have county coordinators in every county that are actively working to build our winning coalition. Moreover, we have made tens of thousands of volunteer phone calls and knocked on thousands of doors.
“That’s a big number,” Muzio adds when asked about the number of volunteers who are working on Gerritson’s campaign.
“Not all are knocking on doors,” he adds, noting that “hundreds of people have signed up,” and are helping in various tasks needed by the campaign.
Muzio is also upbeat about limiting the influence of the money gap between Gerritson and Roby.
The campaign put the best possible spin on the fundraising gap in its recent email:
While we have always known our opponent would be able to raise more money overall, we are going toe to toe with Martha Roby in average individual contributions per month. In fact, at the close of 2015, Becky’s monthly average of $28,203 in contributions from individuals was MORE than Martha’s monthly average of $28,135. Where Martha is outpacing us is money from politicians and special interest groups- the source of the majority of her cash. The fact that we are beating a three-term incumbent in individual contributions is unheard of!
“Citizens United Victory Fund, which endorsed Becky today, is sending us $5,000,” Muzio says.
“The last two weeks of the year, Becky raised $40,000. We’re going to raise north of $170,000 plus by the end of the campaign,” he adds.
Roby, the daughter of a federal judge, was first elected as part of the 2010 Tea Party wave election that gave back control of the House of Representatives to Republicans. Her victory over an incumbent Democrat was one of a number of upset victories that gave the Speakership to Rep. John Boehner.
But both Boehner and Roby have disappointed conservatives with how little Republicans in the House accomplished with their new majority.
Despite Roby’s lackluster voting record by conservative standards (her 61% Heritage Action Scorecard Rating in the current session of Congress is slightly below the average Republican member of the House of Representatives, who has a 63% rating), several prominent conservatives had stood by her and not defected to Gerritson.
Most significantly, Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Tea Party hero, has endorsed Roby over Gerritson, a sure sign that Alabama’s senior senator does not think Gerritson, with whom he aligns ideologically, has a chance to win.
As Alabama.com reported last month:
Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, gained the backing of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for her re-election to Congress in her primary race against Wetumpka Tea Party founder Becky Gerritson, who announced her own high-profile endorsements this week from the national group Tea Party Patriots and its affiliated super PAC.
In endorsing Roby, Sessions singled out the congresswoman’s work in holding the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System accountable. Alabama’s junior senator is arguably the most highly sought after endorser in the state.
“Martha took the VA head on to make sure veterans in our state get the quality care they deserve,” Sessions said in a statement. “It’s rare to see someone stand up to a federal agency and get results the way she did. Martha works hard every day for our military, especially at our key Maxwell and Ft. Rucker bases, and she is known as one of the strongest pro-life advocates in Congress.”
Earlier in the campaign, Roby rolled out the endorsements of 36 mayors in the district, the Alabama Farmers Federation and the tea party group Alabama Patriots.
Meanwhile, Gerritson, who gained national prominence in 2013 after testifying that her tea party group was targeted by the IRS over its seeking of nonprofit status, earned the support of the Tea Party Patriots and the group’s founder, Jenny Beth Martin, who runs the Tea Party Patriots Fund super PAC. She previously received the backing of 2010 Roby primary challenger Rick Barber, former Alabama Republican Party official Troy Towns, the conservative PAC The Madison Project, the Alabama TEA Party and Conservative Coalition, and the conservative website Our Liberty Elections.
“The great people of Alabama’s Second Congressional District deserve a Representative who doesn’t just understand and live the values of America’s working families, but who will be a tireless fighter for those values right from the start,” said Martin. “We urge all voters in Alabama’s Second District to vote for Becky Gerritson, the conservative leader they deserve in Congress.”
Both campaigns downplayed the significance of their rival’s most recent endorsements.
“I have a great respect for Sen. Sessions, and that will never change for myself or for the conservative Alabamians who are so proud to have him as our Senator. However, this is no surprise,” Gerritson said in a statement. “We expected all along that Martha would have a 20-1 spending advantage over us and that she would line up a multitude of politicians to come out in support of a fellow incumbent. Politicians circle the wagons. That’s why this year is so important; it’s time to break up the Washington Cartel and remove the ‘buddy system’ in exchange for issues-based representation. It’s clear Senator Sessions is intent on keeping peace within the party, but it’s also clear that he’s not completely on-board with Martha Roby’s politics—their votes divide on almost every issue most important to conservative voters.”
The financial gap between Roby and challenger Gerritson is significant, as the Montgomery Advertiser reported last week:
Roby’s Federal Election Commission report, which covers her fundraising and spending through Dec. 31, shows the advantage of incumbency. Slightly more than half the amount she raised in the fourth quarter came from political action committees, including big donations from state and national PACs representing defense contractors, insurance companies, agriculture interests, and energy–related companies.
Four PACs have contributed the maximum $10,000 to Roby’s campaign this cycle: the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama PAC, the Alabama Power Company Employees Federal PAC, the American Crystal Sugar PAC, and the PricewaterhouseCoopers PAC.
Roby’s campaign spent $155,000 from October through December, according to the FEC report.
People who contributed to Roby’s campaign during the last quarter include Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey ($250), former U.S. Attorney Leura Garrett Canary ($1,000), Montgomery lobbyist Joe Fine ($1,000), Judkins Durr Blount, president of Filet and Vine ($250), former Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley ($500), Francisco Collazo, CEO of COLSA Corp. ($1,000), Montgomery lobbyist Bob Geddie ($1,000), and HealthSouth Corp. President Jay Grinney ($1,700).
The biggest expenses for Roby’s campaign have been media production, polling and fundraising consulting. Since her last election in 2014, Roby’s campaign has raised $790,000 and spent $373,000.
Gerritson, campaigning as an anti-establishment conservative, reported $620 in cash on Dec. 31.
Her donations include $1,000 from Herman Cain of Georgia, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012; and $2,700 from Allen West, a former Republican congressman from Florida.
Her campaign also had $28,000 in debts, mostly to campaign consultants.
In the last three months of 2015, Gerritson raised $94,000, including about $5,700 in in-kind contributions she made herself in office furnishings, supplies, campaign t-shirts, mileage and other items. Her FEC report also lists several of those in-kind contributions as campaign expenditures, such as reimbursing herself $3,200 for mileage in October, November and December.
The Gerritson campaign draws a comparison between her challenge of Roby and Dave Brat’s successful 2014 primary challenge of Rep. Eric Cantor.
Three weeks before the primary election, Gerritson looks to be a longer shot to pull off an upset than Brat was at a similar point in his challenge to Cantor. But as the national contest for President indicates, 2016 is not a typical political year.
Gerritson’s supporters hope political lightning will strike again in Alabama’s Second Congressional District on March 1 just as it did in 2014 in Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District.