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The tea partiers are organizing like crazy into groups with names like Patriots and Children of Liberty.
To Democrats, they all look like Republicans, but increasingly the Tea Partiers see themselves as independent of both parties.
Yesterday, four groups with ideological ties to the Tea Party organizations that have been meeting around the country to protest what they see as a march toward socialism, met at the Maumee Indoor Theatre to begin mobilizing voters for the 2010 elections.
They say their purpose is educational, to remind voters of the principles established by the Founding Fathers based on self-governance, protection of life and private property, and sovereignty.
A member of one of the groups, Children of Liberty, said the goal is to find a candidate to run for the 9th Congressional District seat now held by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) in 2010.
“We are looking for our own candidate to run against Marcy. We've got people searching for a legitimate candidate,” said John Adams, Jr., of Toledo, who ran for City Council in the primary election as a member of the Teamwork Toledo group that grew out of Toledo's April 15 Tax Day Tea Party rally.
Linda Bowyer, a University of Toledo finance professor who led the organization of the Citizens Town Hall meeting, insisted the group is strictly educational and is not seeking to recruit a candidate.
But “if one comes forward and there would be a good candidate, I don't think anybody'd be opposed to that,” she said.
She refused to say whether members of her group ultimately would support Republican candidates, although she said she never would advocate sitting out an election.
“I think most of the people that I know that are involved in this are registered independents, not registered Republicans,” Ms. Bowyer said. “What I would hope is that if the Republican Party sees that there is a huge groundswell for a conservative candidate, why wouldn't they throw their support behind that candidate?”
Ms. Bowyer said voters are showing a willingness to support an independent. She cited the election of independent Mike Bell for mayor of Toledo on Nov. 3.
“I didn't think I'd see that in my lifetime, did you?” Ms. Bowyer said. “Am I predicting there'll be a third party that defeats Marcy Kaptur in 2010? No, I'm not predicting that,” she said.
Members of Teamwork Toledo, who attended or spoke at the Tea Party rally in International Park on April 15, started off with big hopes of electing six independents to the six at-large seats on council.
Of the six, two got onto the general election ballot, Kevin Milliken and Tricia Lyons, finishing 9th and 12th, respectively.
“That tells you there is a large dissatisfaction with both parties,” he said.
David Jackson, an associate professor of political science at Bowling Green State University, said the Republican Party's base is reorganizing.
“One of the things you have to do to win is you have to have your base energized, and that's a risky thing when you're out of power,” Dr. Jackson said. “You fear you might lose them.”
He said the Tea Parties represent a genuine movement, even if it has been seeded by Republican operatives and money. “The belief that it's all not grass roots would be wishful thinking on Democrats' part,” Mr. Jackson said.
The movement harkens to the Boston Tea Party protest against British taxation that preceded the American Revolution.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana), whose district includes Hancock and Allen counties, said he welcomes the 21st century “patriots.”
He had to.
Many attended his town hall meeting on Wednesday night in Bluffton, Ohio, where they talked enthusiastically of attending the national Tea Party rally Sept. 12 in Washington. Some of those on hand last week belonged to groups such as Allen County Patriots.
“When we run a conservative, we win,” Mr. Jordan said, defining conservative principles as strong defense, lower taxes, controlled spending, and “traditional American values.”
U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) said essentially the same thing, noting the party's defeats in national elections in 2006 and 2008. “Why were people upset with Republicans? Because they weren't acting like Republicans,” he said.
Democrats see Tea Partiers as far to the right of mainstream independent and Democratic voters.
State Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern recently wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter encouraging conservative Republican Sarah Palin to campaign in Ohio for Republican John Kasich in his challenge to Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.
“Based on your recent success of promoting an ultra right-wing candidate in the special congressional election in New York, we believe your engagement in the Ohio gubernatorial race would be invaluable,” Mr. Redfern wrote.
Led by Ms. Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 running mate of John McCain, conservatives bolted the GOP in the New York race and backed third-party candidate Doug Hoffman rather than moderate Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava.
A Democrat will represent portions of a district which have elected Republican congressmen since the 19th Century.
Lucas County Republican Chairman John Stainbrook said he hopes the constitutional conservatives wind up supporting Republican candidates and work with him in getting Republicans elected.
“I'm hoping that these people will see that we are 95 percent like them and help us beat the Democrats into the ground in 2010,” Mr. Stainbrook said.
Mr. Adams, one of the failed City Council Teamwork Toledo candidates, admitted that he sees eye-to-eye with the GOP on many issues but said, “I don't feel like I can fit wholeheartedly in either party. I've been a registered Democrat and I've been a registered Republican, and I've been disappointed wherever I've been.”
He's planning to maintain his independence.
“I don't know if we can win, but I'm going to be on the right side morally,” he said.
Contact Tom Troy at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6058.