In Virginia, Tea Party candidate hopes to tie Democratic Sen. Webb to Obama

The Tea Party leader running to unseat Sen. Jim Webb (D) in 2012 is already going after the centrist Virginian for siding with President Obama on the Democrats' most high-profile — and most highly controversial — legislative successes.

Jamie Radtke, former head of the Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation, said Webb's support for Obama’s economic stimulus package and the new healthcare reform law — as well as the Bush administration’s Wall Street bailout — has helped grow the nation’s debt at the expense of its financial stability. With those votes, Radtke charged, Webb “helped engineer the mess that we're in.”

“I would take issue with Sen. Webb being conservative,” Radtke told the Fox Business Network Wednesday. “He voted for the bank bailouts. He voted for stimulus. He voted for ObamaCare. 

“I mean, he has been right there along the side of Harry Reid and President Obama and has really helped engineer the mess that we're in. We’ve got to get out of the mess.”

First elected to the Senate in 2006, Webb quickly carved out a reputation as an independent voice unafraid to buck Democratic leaders on issues as diverse as gun control and illegal immigration. He has yet to announce if he’ll run for reelection in 2012.

Webb voted in favor of some of the Obama administration's top legislative priorities, including the stimulus bill and the healthcare overhaul. He also supported the Wall Street bailout, an initiative of former President George W. Bush backed then by congressional leaders of both parties.

Radtke’s political star soared this year after her success organizing the Virginia Tea Party Convention in Richmond — an event that reportedly attracted almost 3,000 participants. The stay-at-home mother of three said balancing the budget should be the top priority of the 112th Congress. She slammed lawmakers for even considering a move to raise the debt ceiling — a decision party leaders will face early next year.

“We've got to be looking at balancing the budget,” Radtke told Fox. “And instead, you know, after the midterm elections, they're … already talking about increasing the debt ceiling. And that's just absolutely ludicrous when we should be not talking about that but actually balancing the budget. That’s got to be the number one priority.”

Radtke is the first candidate of any party to announce her candidacy in Virginia's 2012 Senate race, although a number of Republicans — including former Sen. George Allen (Va.) — are expected to join the contest next year.