Roland Straten, Republican challenger in New Jersey’s 8th District, last night announced the activation of a nationwide Web site designed to inform like-minded voters across the country as to which candidate the Tea Party movement prefers.
The site, called Tea Party Preferred, is a project of the Alliance for Free Choice in Education (AFCE), of which Straten is a charter member, according to this press release. (The AFCE advocates for school vouchers, and has proposed this New Jersey Parental Choice Act.) It names candidates that have the support or the preference of either the local Tea Party or of a consensus of Tea Party organizations. It also lists the organizations that contribute information that the AFCE uses to populate the site.
[D]ecisions are made by local and national groups, such as Retake Congress, Independence Caucus, Eagle Forum and Freedom works. We don’t require “endorsements” – only the preferred candidate in each race.In rare races where groups were not reconciled, we went with the locals. Where locals are split, we are posting neither. We can only win with unity – “United we stand.”
Straten described the goals of his site, and its ease of use:
Voters across the country can use this website to determine which candidates we need to elect to Congress so we can take back our government and our Constitution. All you have to do to access this information is enter a ZIP code.
The site has been “live” for several weeks prior to the announcement, and this Examiner has had several opportunities to test it. Straten is correct: to identify a candidate in a House race, the voter must supply a ZIP code. But that code must be a complete ZIP+4 code. The reason: some post offices split their territories (which the five-digit ZIP identifies) between or among two or more districts. The site does say that sometimes a five-digit ZIP will suffice, but repeated tests show otherwise.
Happily, the site provides a direct embed of the US Postal Service’s ZIP Code Lookup routine. Any user with a valid street address may enter it and obtain the complete nine-digit ZIP. The user then enters this into the lookup field (with no characters other than the digits and the hyphen splitting the first five digits from the last four), clicks the “Search” button, and can then see a listing for the preferred candidate, the candidate’s Web site, and, if available, the candidate’s e-mail address.
Any voter wanting to know the preferred candidate in his House race can find it easily. (The site limits itself to House races, but will stay up and expand to other races after this upcoming election.) But a researcher (like, for example, this Examiner) seeking to discover the preferred House candidate in another district or another State has a problem: he must first find a real, valid address, find the ZIP+4 for that address, and then enter it. The site does not display lists of all preferred candidates in any given State. The ZIP+4 lookup is the only lookup available.
This Examiner has found three different descriptions applicable to any given candidate:
- Consensus Tea Party support. Such a candidate has the support of the nationals. Straten and Highlands Mayor Anna Little are two good examples. Scott Garrett (5th) is the only Republican incumbent that enjoys such support.
- Local Tea Party support.
- Urgently needed to hold majority. This is a “hold your nose” category, offered strictly to avoid “vote-splitting.” Rodney Frelinghuysen (11th), Frank LoBiondo (2nd), Chris Smith (4th), and Leonard Lance (7th) fall in this category.
This site ignores minor-party challengers, and that might make the site less attractive to dedicated “patriots.” Peter Boyce (2nd) and Joe Siano (4th) are two good examples. Their Democratic opponents have almost no chance of winning, and their Republican opponents have been lukewarm at best toward Tea Party concerns. This probably reflects the inability of local Tea Party groups to agree on a viable minor-party challenger. But the spectacle of minor-party candidate Tom Tancredo having a shot to win the governor’s race in Colorado perhaps should prompt everyone concerned to re-examine their criteria in this regard.
Nevertheless, the site is everything that Straten described: easy to use, and a valuable resource for like-minded voters.
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