A central Tea Party group announced today the congressional races it will target in 2010, and raised a few eyebrows by endorsing a Democrat.
At a press conference in Washington, the Tea Party Express named its favorite lawmakers and candidates, as well as those officeholders they most want to see removed.
"It's a combination of rewarding our friends and punishing our enemies," said Sal Russo, chief strategist for the Tea Party Express.
The Tea Party Express endorsed a slate of Republican Senate candidates, many of whom have already established themselves as conservative darlings.
State Sen. Chuck DeVore (R-Calif.), former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (R), former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, and former Nevada Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R) all earned official nods.
DeVore, Rubio, Paul and Angle are locked in tough primary campaigns. Angle and DeVore are both trailing significantly in polls.
The group also announced a number of Democrats they would seak to unseat. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) made their way onto the group's target list, as well as the following House Democrats: Alan Grayson (Fla.), Barney Frank (Mass.), Gerry Connolly (Va.), Tom Perriello (Va.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Alan Mollohan (W.Va.), Betsey Markey, Dina Titus (Nev.) and John Spratt (S.C.).
Finally, the group endorsed a slate of its favorite lawmakers, including one Democrat. Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) earned a surprise endorsement from the Express. Minnick found himself in the company of a slough of hardline conservatives, including Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Tom Price (R-Ga.), Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.)
"We have to be effective and influential within both political parties," Russo said. "We have to reward some Democrats that have been willing to stand with us on the tough issues."