Former Sen. George Allen is hoping to win back his Senate seat in Virginia next year, and with Democratic Sen. Jim Webb deciding not to seek re-election
, Republicans have a good chance of reclaiming it.
But Allen's biggest obstacle might be getting past Jamie Radtke
-- a conservative mom who holds a master's degree in public policy, has worked on Capitol Hill, and has become a popular tea party leader in Virginia.
Radtke (who tells me she once worked for Allen as a receptionist), has already raised more than $100,000 and clearly hopes to frame the election as a choice between an establishment insider versus a grassroots conservative. (In a recent interview
with me, Allen pushed back hard against the notion he was "establishment").
"We need to show that we're a viable candidate," Radtke concedes, adding that the public has made it clear "they're not wanting to look backward -- that they're not wanting to do business as usual ... they want a new generation of leadership."
But while the insider/outsider frame is likely vital to her success, Radtke is also focusing on some of Allen's past votes. When asked, she specifically cites
Allen's earmarks, his vote against Fannie and Freddie reform, and his support of Medicare Part D, "which is the largest expansion of the health care system since Obamacare."
Aside from the normal challenges facing a grassroots campaign against a popular former governor and senator, the other problem Radtke may have is that it is very possible several conservative alternatives to Allen might run, splitting the outsider vote, and helping assure Allen of a victory.
For now, at least, Radtke is focusing her campaign on Allen.
"George Allen was
a good governor," she tells me
, "but he's been a politician for three decades -- and I think that Virginians want something new."