The Odd Case Of Delaware Tea Party Candidate Christine O’Donnell

The new tea party candidate in Delaware seems to be a rather odd bird.

As I noted Tuesday, the Tea Party Express decided to intervene in the Delaware GOP Senate primary by endorsing Christine O’Donnell over long-time Delaware lawmaker Mike Castle. Now, it appears that the group may have done so without being aware of O’Donnell’s questionable finances:

The Tea Party Express, the fiscally conservative organization that has helped nominate several GOP underdogs this year, endorsed Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell (R) without knowing too much about her personal financial history.

O’Donnell, a perennial conservative candidate in Delaware, is challenging moderate Rep. Mike Castle (R), the clear favorite of the GOP establishment. But she has come under fire recently for her personal financial problems. Reports have surfaced that she owed $10K in back taxes, defaulted on her mortgage and holds outstanding campaign debt.

Levi Russell, a spokesman for the group, told Hotline On Call that the group was not aware of O’Donnell’s personal financial problems before it endorsed her.

“We don’t know the exact situation,” he said.

When asked if the group discussed the issues with O’Donnell, Russell responded: “No we haven’t. We don’t really have any contact with the campaign or the candidate.”

Tea Party Express concentrates on supporting candidates who share its conservative views on fiscal issues — cutting taxes and balancing the budget. Russell said that even with these revelations about O’Donnell’s financial history, the organization will stand behind her.

“In our view we would rather have someone who owes some back taxes but is not trying to hide them than someone who is trying to sell out the Tea Party,” Russell said, referring to Castle.

As Chris Good notes at The Atlantic, the fact that O’Donnell and the tea party group are primarily attacking Castle’s fiscal record makes O’Donnell’s own apparent fiscal irresponsibility fair game. It also calls into question the reliability of endorsements from a group that doesn’t seem to bother to do background checks that amount to anything more than looking at the issues page on a candidate’s web site.

Meanwhile, there are other oddities going on in Delaware, including staffers for O’Donnell getting into a scuffle with a Republican videographer and, strangest of all, an O’Donnell supporter leveling unsupported personal attacks on Castle:

A conservative firm until recently employed by the Delaware primary campaign of conservative Christine O’Donnell against Rep. Mike Castle casually leveled an extraordinary — and unsupported — charge of a gay affair against Castle in a video posted to its website today, the ugliest salvo yet in an extremely bitter primary.

The newscast-style video on features a woman seated before a backdrop of’s Las Vegas headquarters, criticizing Castle and praising O’Donnell.

“Isn’t Mike Castle cheating on his wife with a man?” asks a voice off-screen at the 1:55 mark.

“That’s the rumor,” answers the newscaster. [Video here]

My colleague Dave Catanese reported earlier this month that O’Donnell’s spokesman, Yates Walker, works for, and the American Spectator described Eric Odom, the group’s founder, as having “joined Team O’Donnell” to organize online support.

Walker told me he and the firm left the campaign two weeks ago and produced the video on their own.

“We asked the question, we didn’t specifically say it,” he said of the gay affair charge, which he said was “common knowledge” in Delaware. “We thought we’d throw it out there.”

Walker said he had no compunction about repeating the rumor about Castle because “he’s a threat to American sovereignty.”

He didn’t offer any evidence for the claim.

No wonder Democrats in Delaware are salivating at the idea of Christine O’Donnell winning the nomination on September 14th.

Update: As mentioned below in the comments O”Donnell gave a rather bizarre interview this morning to a local talk radio host.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, Congress, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. If Castle is nominated, then the Republicans have a really good chance (and probably even should be favored) to win Biden’s old Senate seat.  If O’Donnell wins the nomination, the likelihood would be a Democratic hold.


  2. Westcliff says:

    Give O’Donnell a little more time and she’ll finish imploding by herself.  In a talk radio interview on WGMD this morning, she accused the host (who had endorsed her in 2006 and 2008) of being a stooge for the Castle campaign because the host (Dan Gaffney) had the werewithal to question O’Donnell about the financial issues. 

    He also took her to task right at the beginning for claiming recently that she had won 2 out of Delaware’s 3 counties against Biden in 2008.  She then says, “well, I meant that I tied”.  Except wasn’t really accurate either.  And he says “Christine, this is the easiest of the questions I have.”

    Weird, bizarre, hostile interview.  Fun stuff.

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Hard to talk about issues if all the other side can do is lie about stuff that really does not matter.  She has clearly stated she does not owe back taxes, her house has never been in foreclosure and yes it took her a while to pay her student loan, but she did and graduated.  When you can’t argue issues, attack the person.  Old trick which will not work this year.

  4. sam says:

    “She has clearly stated she does not owe back taxes, her house has never been in foreclosure and yes it took her a while to pay her student loan, but she did and graduated.”
    Ah, yes, “clearly stated”, well that settles it. She is cute, though.

  5. sam says:

    She’s not too good on the radio, either:

    Christine O’Donnell plays defense on radio (
    Gaffney also probed O’Donnell on the thousands of dollars of campaign debt she amassed during her 2008 run.

    “Isn’t this what’s wrong with Washington, D.C. that we borrow money, we collect money and we don’t pay off our old debts?” Gaffney asked.

    O’Donnell countered that she wasn’t personally wealthy like Castle or presumptive Democratic nominee Chris Coons, and that it’s not uncommon for regular people to have debt to pay off.

    “When we meet with donors we ask them to specifically give to the 2008 debt relief. When we raise money this year, it goes toward the 2010 campaign,” she said.

    At one point the exchange got so heated, Gaffney turned the volume down on O’Donnell’s microphone.

    “I podded her down, she’s still babbling,” said the host. “Only fiscally irresponsible people collect new money and ignore their debt.”

    O’Donnell asked whether Gaffney was being paid by the Castle campaign to ask such aggressive questions, and said she would pray for him.

  6. Stephen says:

    Democrats in Delaware are salivating because their mouths are hanging open. Oh, ye of little faith, get your knives and forks ready, there is a plate of crow coming your way.