WENATCHEE — Expanding powers of federal government, lack of fiscal responsibility, ever-growing taxes and not listening to conservative constituents is what pushed many in this area to organize or join Tea Party movements.
Nationally, the Tea Party has been getting some negative press lately; but for local people fed up with the current state of the country, the Tea Party is serving as a way to finally have a voice in what their government does.
“I am feeling more and more alarmed about our country,” said Ann Mix of Moses Lake, a 69-year-old grandmother who helped establish the Moses Lake/Grant County Tea Party Coalition.
“People are so angry because of federal bailouts for banks and GM and the new health care system, that they are calling and asking what can they do and how can they get involved,” she said. “These are people who have never gotten involved in politics. The idea of going to a protest or a political rally is embarrassing to them because they don’t want to be seen as rebels or troublemakers. But they are seeing that something has to be done.”
Marian McClanahan, who organized the Okanogan County Tea Party Patriots, is seeing the same thing.
She said that whenever their group gets together, people who have never spoken out against the government are getting up in front of a group of people “and speaking their minds.”
For McClanahan, it was President Barack Obama’s policies that made her stand up one day and announce to friends and family that Okanogan County was going to have a Tea Party. She said 200 people have signed up to be on its e-mail list.
The Tea Party, which is a grassroots movement rather than an actual party, began nationally well before Obama took office, said Alan Odermann, with the Grant County coalition that has 400 people on its mailing list.
It started in 2008 as a rift between conservatives and moderates within the Republican Party, when then-President George Bush convinced Congress to approve a $700 billion bailout package after the global financial crisis.
“Just because you’re a Republican, doesn’t mean you’re a conservative,” Odermann said. “We feel conservatism is no longer being represented and we want to restore that.”
He said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who won the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, is a “textbook example” of why the Tea Party exists.
“He’s always been a moderate, bragging about reaching across the aisle,” Odermann said. “But he doesn’t just reach over there. He goes over and sits down with them. … Obama is in the White House because so many were so disgusted with McCain.”
We the People-Wenatchee is a Tea Party coalition of conservatives in Chelan and Douglas County.
Member Matt Erickson, 48, of Wenatchee, said 40 to 60 people show up regularly at the monthly meetings, where the topics range from effective political action to discussions on health care reform.
But at a Fourth of July BBQ where local candidates were invited to speak, 250 showed up, he said.
Tea Partiers across the nation have been targeting Democrat seats, but Republicans who veer from a conservative Republican platform aren’t safe either.
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, isn’t getting a ripple of attention from the Tea Party groups in The World’s four-county area, even though one man, Rex A. Broki, of Union Gap, is running as a Tea Party candidate against Hastings.
Jim Blair IV, a member of We The People-Wenatchee, said Hastings “just isn’t on our radar.”
Blair said his group isn’t endorsing or denouncing any candidates in local or state elections.
“We’re just hosting candidate forums and letting the people decide for themselves,” he said.
But it’s no secret that Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash, is a Tea Party target.
“Any of the Republicans running against her would be better than her,” Blair said, speaking for himself and not for the group.
Clint Didier, who former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin threw her support behind, is getting a healthy nod from some local Tea Party members, even if the groups themselves are officially endorsing him.
Odermann said he’s liking what he’s hearing from the Pasco farmer and former Washington Redskins football player.
“Clint (Didier) is not a career politician,” Odermann said. “He’s very conservative, studied the Constitution and has a strong personality that wouldn’t be intimidated in Washington, D.C.”
Julie Edwards, Murray’s campaign communications director in Seattle, said she doesn’t think the strong Tea Party presence in Washington is going to make this year’s election any more difficult than other elections.
“She’s been an underdog in every race and she has won,” Edwards said. “This year shouldn’t be any different.
Didier’s campaign advisor, Kathryn Serkes, said the backing of the Tea Party “is going to dramatically affect the Murray race. But it’s not because there is a Tea Party presence in Washington.
“It’s because people are not afraid to say they are opposed to the pork, health care reform and the out-of-control government,” she said. “People are now willing to be vocal and willing to step up to the plate and get involved in politics.
Michele Mihalovich: 665-1188