03/28/2014 05:11 pm ET Updated Mar 31, 2014

Tea Party Group Switches Endorsement In Competitive GOP Primary


FreedomWorks PAC, a conservative political group affiliated with the tea party, switched its endorsement in the Nebraska Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Mike Johanns.

The group, which had previously backed former Nebraska state treasurer Shane Osborn, decided instead to support Ben Sasse, the president of Midland University outside of Omaha.

"Both Osborn and Sasse are great people, and this was not a decision taken lightly," Matt Kibbe, CEO of FreedomWorks, wrote in a press release. "The question at the heart of this decision is, who would caucus with the Freedom Caucus, and who would fall in line with the establishment?"

Sasse has already garnered endorsements from the Senate Conservatives Fund and Club for Growth.

"At this point, it is clear that Shane Osborn formed allegiances with Mitch McConnell and the K Street lobbying class," Kibbe continued. "For us, that progression away from the grassroots has tipped the balance. FreedomWorks PAC has a responsibility to endorse the most reliable candidate for liberty, and after following the evolution of this primary, it’s clear that Ben Sasse is the man for the job."

Nebraska's primary is scheduled for May 13.

UPDATE -- March 31, 9:00 a.m.:

Osborn released a statement Friday in which he called out FreedomWorks for backing a candidate the group had previously attacked for not being conservative enough.

"I am the proven conservative candidate who will fight Washington, D.C. and Ben Sasse is the candidate of Washington, D.C," Osborn wrote. "Sasse has garnered the support of Washington, D.C. special interest groups because of his long history living and working in the city. FreedomWorks has decided to endorse a candidate who they have attacked for months over his lack of conservatism and record of championing big government policies. Sasse is selling himself as the ObamaCare nemesis, but nothing could be further from the truth."



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