State Tea Party exerts clout with new Republican majority

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 1:49pm

Leaders of Tennessee’s Tea Party movement came to the legislature Wednesday to begin exercising their clout with the new Republican majority, warning they will try to unseat lawmakers who resist.

“The enthusiasm of the Tea Party is, if anything, ramping up,” one leader, the anti-tax crusader Ben Cunningham, told reporters in the Legislative Plaza. “People want to get involved. They want to hold their government accountable. They want their elected representatives to conduct themselves according to Tea Party principles.”

The Tea Party began in Tennessee at a 2009 anti-tax rally that drew hundreds of protesters outside the Capitol. After November’s elections, in which victorious Republican candidates across the state adhered to the Tea Party line, the movement clearly isn’t on the outside anymore.

The Tea Party’s success hasn’t been complete. Its candidate for governor, Sen. Ron Ramsey, finished third in last August’s GOP primary. The Tea Party also backed the loser, Rep. Glen Casada, in the contest for House speaker. The more moderate Republican Rep. Beth Harwell was elected speaker Tuesday on the opening day of the 107th General Assembly.

But Tea Party activists said Wednesday they see themselves as a formidable force in state politics. They promised to recruit challengers to run in 2012 election primaries against rebellious Republicans.

“As people respond to us or don’t respond to us, we will judge them on the basis of what is constitutional and what’s in the best interest of America and its values, and we will go into the next election cycle working with the people who have helped us and against those who haven’t,” said Hal Rounds of Fayette County.

Only about a dozen activists showed up at the legislature, fanning out to meet individually with lawmakers. Cunningham said the cold weather kept away a larger crowd. He said 150 Tea Party leaders from across the state met in Knoxville two weeks ago to agree on a set of legislative priorities. Among them:

• Rejecting national health care reform. In a policy statement, which the activists planned to give to legislators, the Tea Party called the law “an insult to constitutional principles and the citizens of the United States.”

• Amending the state constitution to require the popular election of the Tennessee attorney general, who now is appointed by the state Supreme Court. Attorney General Bob Cooper has angered the Tea Party by refusing to join a lawsuit by various states to challenge the national health care law.

• “Educating students the truth of America.” In its statement, the Tea Party said, “neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States” and demanded that public schools teach “the sacrifices and contributions of the Founding Fathers and their generation …”

“The Tea Party is here to stay,” Cunningham said. “This is the beginning. We’ll be back and we’ll be watching.”

11 Comments on this post:

By: localboy on 1/12/11 at 1:55

"“The Tea Party is here to stay,” Cunningham said. “This is the beginning. We’ll be back and we’ll be watching.”"
Fine, we'll bring the sugar and cream....

By: AmyLiorate on 1/12/11 at 8:51

Ben Cunningham is a sharp guy. A stalwart in keeping officials accountable. He has a proven track record that predates "tea party" by a decade, those so called tea party "leaders" could learn a LOT from Ben.

Hal Rounds as well. Look him up and take one of his classes. You will learn a lot, could be the best $10 you ever spent.

By: govskeptic on 1/13/11 at 7:29

The statement that Lt. Gov. Ramsey was Tea Party favorite for
Governor is only partially correct. While not a member of this
group myself, several coffee buddies are and he was not
their groups candidate, that race was county to county by
apparently many of these members.

By: sickofstupidity on 1/13/11 at 7:51

I am a conservative Republican. I am not a nut job or a tea party Nazi..Ronnie Ramsey was not elected Gov. because he is a small man, not only in stature, but in intellect. He is a mean spirited, back stabbing, scum back and an embarrassment to the State of Tennessee.

By: bfra on 1/13/11 at 9:46

By: sickofstupidity on 1/13/11 at 6:51
I am a conservative Republican. I am not a nut job or a tea party Nazi..Ronnie Ramsey was not elected Gov. because he is a small man, not only in stature, but in intellect. He is a mean spirited, back stabbing, scum back and an embarrassment to the State of Tennessee.

Golly, we have one of those for a mayor!

By: on 1/13/11 at 12:38

I must be a nut job, because I'm all for the Tea Party movement. By the looks of November's election, there must be a whole lot more of us "nut jobs" in your midst. Isn't that scary?

By: sickofstupidity on 1/13/11 at 1:19

Nut jobs only scare little old ladies. Those of us with hand gun permits and actually carry, worry little about nut jobs in our midst. The tea part nuts in TN. are only scary because TN. has some of the most illiterate people in th US. And they are proud of it.

By: on 1/13/11 at 1:26

I have a CCW, also. Thankfully, the Tea Party movement has championed gun rights for law-abiding citizens.

By: AmyLiorate on 1/13/11 at 2:44

LOL bfra!

By: trtay2004 on 1/13/11 at 4:33

The 'Tea Party principles???? Isn't that an oxymoron?

By: on 1/13/11 at 8:32

Tea Party Princilples are for limited and less government, and a strict adherence to our Constitution, arguably the greatest document ever conceived by mankind. BTW, which Tea Party group are you refering to? There are several different Tea Party groups. Have you read and studied their platforms, or did you just decide because some liberal news anchor or politician told you not to like them? That sort of reminds me of the legislators that voted for Obamacare, and never bothered to read the bill. Tea Partiers are definitely not Nazis, either. Nazis and Communists both support total ownership and control of everything and everybody by the government. That sounds more like liberals to me.