FreedomWorks Might Help Candidates They Opposed in 2014 Primaries

Freedomworks did not endorse Tillis, left, in the primary. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

FreedomWorks, a tea party-affiliated group that backed primary challengers to two GOP incumbents this cycle, is weighing whether to spend money to help the nominees they previously opposed.  

The group, known for targeting Republican incumbents and establishment favorites with ground-game assistance for conservative candidates, is more closely tied with the tea party than the Republican Party.  

But as FreedomWorks looks to the general election fights ahead, and with Republicans needing a six-seat net gain to win the Senate majority, the group is open to aiding candidates like North Carolina Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — both of whom it actively worked against earlier this year.  

"We’ve decided that Harry Reid’s not our friend,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said in an interview Thursday. "Shockingly." The group is now considering helping Tillis's bid to defeat Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. FreedomWorks previously attacked Tillis in the primary and backed his opponent, Dr. Greg Brannon.  

“We don’t endorse candidates that we don’t really think are going to be rock stars," Kibbe said. "Our super PAC, on the other hand, has always spent money in races where we haven’t endorsed. So we might go into North Carolina and work against Kay Hagan, for instance, because clearly Tillis is better than Hagan, from our perspective.”  

Such help would not take the form of a "pro-Tillis" effort, FreedomWorks executive vice president Adam Brandon clarified on Friday, but rather an "anti-Kay Hagan" campaign.  

Beyond North Carolina, Kibbe mentioned Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa and Georgia as states where the group hasn't endorsed but would consider helping the Republican nominees. The same goes for New Hampshire, where former Massachusetts Sen. Scott P. Brown, is running.  

“We did not endorse him in Massachusetts because I didn’t think it would help. I definitely wanted him to win, and a lot of our activists worked for him, but FreedomWorks’ brand may or may not help — New Hampshire’s different obviously than Massachusetts. So I’m not philosophically opposed to that, but we’ll see,” Kibbe said.  

FreedomWorks involvement in campaigns is centered on providing activists with the training and resources to mount a successful ground game. For instance, in Mississippi, the group is backing state Sen. Chris McDaniel's bid to unseat Republican Sen. Thad Cochran. Kibbe said they are printing door hangers and yard signs and other literature their members can hand out when canvassing. They also spend money on social media, but only rarely spend on TV or radio. Ultimately, Kibbe said, it would come down to where activists were willing to work. But when the primaries are over, their main goal would be getting a Republican majority.  

“Someone asked me, ‘Well, are you going to endorse Mitch McConnell,' and what I said was, ‘We’re going to ask our membership what they want to do. Because obviously I don’t want the Democrat to win in Kentucky,’” he said.