Capitol Alert: Center-right battle shaping up among Republicans challenging Ami Bera

ccadelago@sacbee.comDecember 13, 2013 

Congressional challenger Igor Birman continued his rightward assault on fellow Republican Doug Ose on Friday, urging the former congressman to publicly sever ties with a centrist organization that accepted money from organized labor.

"If Doug wants to have any credibility whatsoever with Republicans, he needs to denounce the Main Street Partnership and pledge not to take any support from them," said Birman, a former aide to conservative GOP Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove, in a prepared release.

Ose has been a member of the Main Street Partnership and served on its board. A campaign representative did not immediately return a request seeking comment.

The Main Street Partnership is led by former GOP Rep. Steven LaTourette of Ohio. LaTourette has been critical of the GOP's close relationship with gun-rights groups, and reportedly plans to spend millions of dollars in the upcoming midterm elections in support of what it calls "the governing wing of the GOP."

Birman's request comes as a new poll shows support for labor unions - typically allied with Democratic candidates and causes - has taken a big hit even in blue California. Some 45 percent of voters believe unions do more harm compared with 40 percent who say they do more good, according to the Field Poll.

Birman and Ose are part of a Republican trio including Elizabeth Emken taking on Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove. While all three have begun criticizing the freshman congressman for his support of the federal health care overhaul, among other issues, the dynamic between Birman and Ose seems to mirror the growing number of election battles shaping up nationwide that pit establishment Republicans against tea party challengers.

Ose served three terms in the House before stepping aside because of self-imposed term limits. He recently rolled out a series of endorsements from local elected officials, law enforcement officials, area farmers, Eastern European pastors and an anti-tax crusader. Birman has the support of tea party organizations, gun-owners associations and the conservative Citizens United.

In calling on Ose to disassociate with the organization and its super PAC, Defending Main Street, Birman cited a Dec. 9 National Journal piece that ran under the headline "Guess Who's Funding the Republican Civil War." It quotes a Club for Growth spokesman saying: "We don't care about where Main Street gets its funding from." Birman, however, accused the group of supporting "liberal" Republicans in 2014.

"I'm sure that Doug understands that the Republican Main Street Partnership is nothing more than a front group for the left," he said. "I'm confident that notwithstanding Doug's close association with the group, he won't want them supporting his campaign."

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