Nov. 21--A group of tea party supporters stood outside Bank of America Stadium Thursday morning, waving signs and protesting a fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis that featured Republican strategist Karl Rove.
The dozen protesters appeared to have missed Rove and Tillis, who arrived at the event by a side entrance to the stadium.
The protest came hours before four other Senate candidates were scheduled to speak at a tea party event in Gastonia. Tillis was invited but said he had a conflict.
The rally underscored party divisions expected to play out before May's primary as Republicans look for a nominee to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.
Among tea party activists, there's little love for one-time White House adviser Rove.
"Let's face it," said local tea party leader Christian Hine, who carried a sign that said, "Liber-Tea, not Rove."
"Karl Rove declared war on the tea party in February."
That was when Rove launched the super PAC called Conservative Victory Project designed to help nominate candidates he said have a chance to win.
"Our object is to avoid having stupid candidates who can't win general elections, who are undisciplined, can't raise money, aren't putting together the support necessary to win a general election campaign," he told a reporter last spring.
Sponsored by a tea party group, Thursday night's event will being together Cary physician Greg Brannon, Forsyth County broadcaster Bill Flynn, Wilkes County nurse Heather Grant and Charlotte pastor Mark Harris.
Brannon has been an early favorite of tea party activists. He's been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Harris also is bidding for tea party support. Aides confirmed to the News & Observer that Harris recently met with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a leader of the recent government shutdown effort.
Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw deflected suggestions that Tillis is the "establishment" candidate.
"People throw around labels, that's not something we're doing," he said. "Thom Tillis has a record of achieving conservative results and he appeals to everyone in the Republican Party."
Tillis' fundraiser was closed to the media. It's unclear how many people attended.
(c)2013 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Tea party allies protest Rove appearance
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