Kentucky state Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, is calling on Jefferson County Democratic Party leaders to file a lawsuit that would disqualify his Tea Party primary challenger from the race.
Louisville Tea Party president and founder Wendy Caswell is a registered Democrat who is running against Meeks in the May primary. But in an e-mail message to Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairman Bill Ryan, Meeks highlights messages from the group sent by Caswell that have encouraged supporters to run for Republican offices and had her as a speaker featured alongside several GOP candidates and operatives.
Meeks says his challenger is perpetrating a fraud and masquerading as a Democrat while the local Tea Party continues to work exclusively for GOP operatives.
“I am asking our local and our state Democratic Party to step forward and preserve our integrity. It’s really not about her. It’s really not about the Tea Party. It’s about our Democrat Party being Democrats,” he says.
Caswell has maintained she is Democrat with socially liberal views on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Last month, she told WFPL the Tea Party movement shouldn’t be defined by party affiliation and is more about following the U.S. Constitution.
When candidates file for office with the secretary of state’s office they sign paperwork swearing to support their party’s principles and policies. Louisville Democrats haven’t made a decision on whether to file suit against Caswell’s candidacy, but party leaders says they are researching state law and other court cases.
“Usually the Tea Party people are Republicans and this person has filed as a Democrat. Why, we don’t know. We’re trying to get more information on it and then we’ll decided what to do,” says Ryan. “The filing papers do say you swear to do that. And that’s why I need to talk to her. She’s either got to say she believes in the Democratic Party and will live with our values or get out of the race if she’s not a loyal Democrat.”
Polling numbers have shown that 15 percent in the Tea Party were Democrats, but few have sought or won public office and it has been difficult to measure their impact since the movement began.
Meeks says those promotions of Republican candidates and events are connected to Caswell directly and the party has to maintain its integrity.
“(They) come directly from her and from her home. She’s running the operation out of her home. She’s clearly a Tea Party person,” he says. “She is not a Democrat and the public needs to know that. And our Democrat Party needs to step forward and preserve our party integrity.”
Caswell did not immediately return a call seeking comment for this story.