Meet the first elected official from the Tea Party.
The newly created Florida Tea Party announced Friday it is nominating Polk County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson in the race for retiring Rep. Adam Putnam's (R-Fla.) seat.
The party announced, and it appears to be the case, that Wilkinson is the first elected official from the Tea Party in the United States. Florida recently became the first state to actually have a Tea Party as a political party. Some (lower-case 't') tea party activists have bristled at the formation of the a political party bearing that name in the Sunshine State, but the party's founders have pushed forward with endorsing a slate of candidates.
Wilkinson dropped out of the GOP primary against state Rep. Dennis Ross this week when the party offered him its nomination. He hasn't raised much money (about $27,000 by the end of March), but even if he only stole a few percentage points in the general election, he could play spoiler for Ross in his campaign against Polk County Elections Supervisor Lori Edwards. Democrats have made the seat a top target this year.
Wilkinson said he sees a path running to the right of both candidates.
"I’d say both of those candidates are pretty well moderate," Wilkinson told The Hill. "Dennis is to the left of Putnam. Putnam was a little to the left of (former Rep. Charles) Canady (R-Fla.). We keep moving towards a mushy middle."
Putnam is running for state Agriculture Commissioner.
Update 4:33 p.m.: Ross campaign manager Fred Piccolo responds: "Randy Wilkinson has garnered no local support, no local endorsements, no local donors, no endorsements from his own County Commission colleagues, and knew he could not win a conservative Republican primary. This is plainly a desperate act. ... Our friends in the local tea party, 9/12, liberty, and conservative movements remain behind Dennis and we will go into November unified."