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Who Is Christine O'Donnell?

The Tea Party backed Delaware Senate candidate talks to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

2:55 PM, Sep 2, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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In the wake of Joe Miller's upset over Lisa Murkowski in Alaska's GOP Senate primary, there's been a lot of buzz for Delaware GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, who is challenging moderate GOP congressman Mike Castle in the September 14 primary. This week, the Tea Party Express endorsed O'Donnell, a former conservative activist who has worked at the Republican National Committee, Concerned Women for America, and the Savior's Alliance for Lifting the Truth. The Tea Party Express says it's going to spend $250,000 on the race, and its new radio ad touts conservative radio host Mark Levin's endorsement of O'Donnell. Some other conservatives, like RedState.com's Erick Erickson, have endorsed O'Donnell as well.

Who Is Christine O'Donnell?

Christine O'Donnell

In an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD late this morning, O'Donnell said there's no difference between Mike Castle and the Democrat in the race, New Castle County executive Chris Coons. Asked if there are any issues on which Castle is better than the Democrat, O'Donnell said: "I don't think so."

Castle has plenty of moderate and liberal positions, but his supporters point out that Delaware is one of the most Democratic states in the country, and Castle could be Delaware's Scott Brown.

Would O'Donnell have voted for Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race? "I'm not a Massachusetts voter," she replied, dodging the question. Would she support a conservative primary challenger against Brown? "Again these are hypotheticals," she said, "that I can't answer." Did she do anything to actively support Scott Brown in Massachusetts? "Did I? Well, a lot of folks on my campaign team did," said O'Donnell, who rejects the comparison between Brown and Castle. "Scott Brown is so much better than Mike Castle," she said.

Castle has supported at least a couple bills that Brown now opposes--cap-and-trade and the DISCLOSE act, for example--but there are issues on which he sides with conservatives. Castle supports extending all the Bush tax cuts, voted against Obamacare, and supports repealing and replacing Obamacare if possible. Though Castle supports legalized abortion, he voted against taxpayer-funding of abortion in Obamacare and against partial-birth abortion. Castle would be a likely vote for Republican-appointed judges like John Roberts and Samuel Alito, though Castle has not, to my knowledge, said how he would have voted on these nominations. (Castle has not responded to an interview request from THE WEEKLY STANDARD. Update: Castle aides are looking into when the congressman would be available.)

Whatever the upside to Mike Castle, it isn't good enough for Christine O'Donnell. She refused to say if she would endorse Castle if he wins the primary and refused to say if she would run as a third-party candidate if she loses the primary,* saying such questions are hypothetical. "That’s a moot point, I don’t see how we can’t win," she said.

Ideological differences aside, questions have been raised about O'Donnell's financial history. According to a March 21 Delaware News Journal article posted on knowchristineodonnell.com, O'Donnell is using campaign funds to pay for half of the rent at her residence:

Greenville Place lists the prices of a town house rental between $1,645 and $2,020 a month, depending on the number of bedrooms and square feet.

O'Donnell said she pays half of her rent with campaign donations because she also uses the town home as her Senate campaign headquarters.

"I'm splitting it, legally splitting it and paying part of it," she said. "This is our technical headquarters."

O'Donnell said she has separate, private quarters and that staffers, like Hust, live in the other portion of the home.

O'Donnell tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that while she does pay rent on what is technically her legal residence with campaign funds, she also has a separate permanent residence, the location of which she won't disclose "for security reasons." O'Donnell said that her campaign office and home were vandalized in 2008, and she's fearful that her opponents will do the same this year. Says O'Donnell:

They’re following me. They follow me home at night. I make sure that I come back to the townhouse and then we have our team come out and check all the bushes and check all the cars to make sure that—they follow me.

That’s what’s disgusting, as you can see from the YouTube videos. They knock on the door at all hours of the night. They’re hiding in the bushes when I’m at candidate forums. In 2008 they broke into my home. They vandalized my home. They wrote nasty notes on my front door, on my front porch. They jeopardized my safety. They did the same thing to our campaign office. They broke into our campaign office. They vandalized our campaign office. They stole files. My campaign signs that had my picture—they put a spear in my mouth poked out my eyes, and cut out the part of my heart, and wrote nasty names all over those campaign signs.

I would be a fool to be pressured into disclosing where I live, when I know that the stakes are even higher this time. What makes me think they wont do the same distasteful things they did in 2008 when the stakes are even higher, when we’re even more viable. I mean come on, John, you’re a class act. You don’t want to—you know that this is a security issue. You know what they’re capable of.

Is O'Donnell suggesting that Castle supporters vandalized her office in 2008, when she was running for Senate against Joe Biden? “I’m not sure who did it, but I know for a fact that Mike Castle and [Delaware GOP chairman] Tom Ross were campaigning against me,” O’Donnell says. “They’ve been sabotaging my candidacy since 2008. So who knows who did it back then.” O'Donnell says there are no police reports of the 2008 break-in because she didn't want to make an issue of it at the time. She claims to have pictures of vandalized signs.

Asked by a conservative Delaware talk show host this morning about outstanding campaign debts from her 2008 campaign against Joe Biden, O'Donnell said she is still paying them off. And though it took her 12 years to pay off outstanding debts, O'Donnell says she did receive her diploma from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Asked about a financial disclosure showing that O'Donnell only had $5,800 of earned income last year, O'Donnell told me that she actually made more but didn't have to and wouldn't disclose how much. "The only thing they can use against me is that I’m not a multi-millionaire," said O'Donnell.

There haven't been any recent public polls on the Castle v. O'Donnell primary, though an August 5 Rasmussen poll showed Castle leading Chris Coons, the Democrat, 49 percent to 37 percent, while O'Donnell was trailing Coons 36 percent to 46 percent.

O'Donnell's campaign manager Matt Moran thinks that this poll isn't accurate, calling it "more of a push poll." 

"Scott Rasmussen has to pay his bills," says Moran. "We understand that the RNC and NRSC have long tentacles."

*Update: Guy Benson reports that it's "too late" for O'Donnell to run on a third-party ticket: "Her only recourse would be a write-in campaign...which she has done before."

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