published Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Tea party activity leaves some Republicans bitter

by Cliff Hightower

Tea party support helped elect Republicans nationally last week, but local members of both groups aren't sure whether they now want to build bridges or burn them.

The GOP and the tea party share some principles -- particularly for smaller government, lower taxes and free markets.

But the Hamilton County Republican Party chairwoman says the tea party is a clique of conservatives not willing to respect party procedures.

"They've become exclusive and very elitist. Some of them are even cultish," Chairwoman Delores Vinson said. "About what they are good for is siphoning off votes from the Republicans."

And Chattanooga Tea Party President Mark West says the local GOP has devolved into an old power structure not open to new ideas, one that doesn't understand the grass-roots effort of the common people.

"It's a new era and the old power structure is having a hard time understanding," he said.

Still, West said, "There's room enough for both of us."

Ballot choices

When Chuck Fleischmann won the GOP nomination in the 3rd Congressional District race to replace Zach Wamp, the Chattanooga Tea Party endorsed Savas Kyriakidis, who ran as an independent.

West said Fleischmann wasn't enough of a fiscal conservative for the tea party.

But Vinson said the Republican Party has to appeal to a variety of people. She said the party procedure is to nominate and unite around a candidate.

The Chattanooga Tea Party bucked that system and fielded its own candidate who called himself Republican, she said, even though he had not been vetted in the Republican primary.

She said the tea party is "not trying to work with us."

Fleischmann won the race with 91,891 votes, while Kyriakidis garnered 17,074 votes, according to unofficial election results.

Urge to merge

Now local members of both groups wonder whether they can work together, or if they'll stay at opposite ends of the city -- the Tea Party meeting monthly at the Homebuilders Association of Southern Tennessee off Harrison Pike and Republicans holding weekly Pachyderm Club meetings at the DoubleTree Hotel downtown.

West said bridges can be built.

"The bridge is us walking their direction, and us encouraging them to walk our direction," West said.

Charlie Wysong, another local tea party leader, agreed.

"I don't think there's a rift between the Republican Party and us," he said. "I think there's a rift between [us over] the nomination."

Kyriakidis said he still identifies himself as a Republican and wants to work to improve the party.

He said the local party leadership is "arrogant" and doesn't seem to connect with common people.

"I see there's a structure that says you endorse the R regardless," he said. "I see a swath of independent thinkers who say its endorse the best candidate."

Kyriakidis said he's considered starting a Pachyderm Club chapter on the east side of town for those who cannot make it downtown for meetings.

Marty Von Schaaf, president of the Pachyderm Club, said he hopes to see the two groups coming together in the next few years. He said the tea party represents a rightward shift nationally and that Kyriakidis and West should be part of local Republican leadership.

"If we're on the ball, we're going to reach out to them," he said.

Harold Coker, vice chairman of the local Republican Party, said he agreed the groups shared the same philosophies and needed to come together.

"The tea party movement is where the Republican Party used to be," he said.

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musiccity4us said...

Chuck Fleischmann will gain momentum with all interested parties with a conservative voting record and will hopefully be a lot more accessible to the community than Wamp was the last four to six years. The Tea Party and others should support him and hold him to his promises over the next two years. No earmarks. The world is bigger than Oak Ridge. Wamp never realized that.

November 7, 2010 at 12:24 a.m.
fairmon said...

The Tea Party must remain independent to be effective. The Tea Party appears to be a group of like minded people from both parties and independents that share information about all candidates. These people are not of the herd mentality and think for their self. It is evident Ms. Vinson doesn't have a clue who or what the Tea Party is about and apparently fears a loss of personal and party power. Primaries are useless to most voters, they are of value only to party people like Vinson. The local republican party was unable to gain Robin Smith's or the Tea Party's endorsement of their candidate and still doesn't appear to know why. I think she just convinced me, a life long republican, to become an independent and to consider becoming involved with the Tea Party.

The media often referred to candidates as the "Tea Party candidate". It would be more accurate to say The Tea party endorsed or supported candidate. I have never heard the media refer to the AARP candidate or the candidate of any other politically active group.

Fleischmann will have to be more impressive and accessible than he was during the campaign. He appears to be a typical "me to" Republican more interested in the next election than the well being of the country.

November 7, 2010 at 3:25 a.m.
jabbo77 said...

18 more months tick, tick, tick...

November 7, 2010 at 5:24 a.m.
musiccity4us said...

Robin Smith has little political equity after her loss. It was bad timing and she will have to regroup and find some support somewhere to compete in two years.

November 7, 2010 at 8:09 a.m.
sunone2010 said...

Bla Bla Bla - we can all only hope that all parties will unite for thats whats best for the country - the last two years the republicans have had only one goal - To Obstruct - Lamar even said that all they do is sit around and talk about how they can obstruct - the only thing that matters anymore is "the party"

The senate is broke thus congress is a lame duck - untill we "wake up" all good ideas will be shot down and nothing will happen that is for the greater good, all you politicians need to grow up and think about the people = not special interest, private jets and tans - remember United we Stand - divided we FALL - as far as the tea baggers, its a mixed bag a good heart i'm sure but further division and head kickers is not what we need!

November 7, 2010 at 10:24 a.m.
Allison12 said...

The local GOP is a very attractive organization to moderates. They are moderates. The Tea party is too far right to a looney toon level, and the local Dems are a bunch of idiots that still kiss up to the Tennessee Waltz crowd, Ward Crutchfield. Unfortunately, the local Dems have ruined the City of Chattanooga with the highest stormwater fees in the state, and rasied our property taxes to 2nd only to Memphis. How do we get those free spending Dems out of our Chattanooga gov? They are repsonsible for the highest fees and taxes, and need to go, Sally Robinson, Pam Ladd, Andrae McGary, Manny Rico, Carol Berz, need help packing in March 2013.

November 7, 2010 at 12:16 p.m.
Allison12 said...

Oh forgot, great article.

November 7, 2010 at 12:18 p.m.
fairmon said...

It is a good article.

It is sad that middle class republicans think the party is on their side when actually they cater to the more wealthy. It is sad that middle class democrats think their party is on their side when actually they cater to the larger voter block of the less wealthy and government dependent. Why does each party spend so much time trying to convince the middle class of their value to them? You have heard the answer to the question of "why do you rob banks"? The same principle is applicable.

Locally the mayor labeled the more than 15,000 officially objecting to his and the councils usurious behavior and taxing citizens too much as an angry, uninformed on the fringe crowd. Now the local republican chair woman labels those not getting in line behind her as exclusive, elitist and cultist. Does that motivate you to be in the republican camp?

Attend a pachyderm meeting and see if you detect a tone of superiority and the attitude of listen, we know what is best for you. Attend a democratic party leadership meeting and see if you don't detect the same tone. Attend a Tea Party meeting and see if you think they are elitist, and cultist or do they also have the we know best attitude?

I predict you will likely be confused and disappointed with all three but be convinced you should get to know and select the candidate of your choice and not listen to all the blabbering of those trying to influence you.


November 7, 2010 at 3:35 p.m.
alohaboy said...

Chuck said 'it is easy, stop spending money' I'm holding him to that ad. If he votes for any bill that spends any money, he lies.

November 7, 2010 at 6:06 p.m.
fairmon said...

If you want to be in the republican camp you may have to take a knee and apologize to her haughty highness for your behavior. You may have to acknowledge you acted as elite, exclusive and exhibited cult behavior. You may even have to take a vow the obey and follow the archaic party rules. I feel so estranged since without knowing it I voted early for the candidate the Tea Party leaders endorsed.

November 7, 2010 at 7:57 p.m.
inquiringmind said...

You know what they did to the boxes of tea in Boston Harbor.

November 7, 2010 at 8:18 p.m.
enufisenuf said...

sonone, you prech equality yet practice bashing the repubs and tea party, you must be a dumbocrat. Try thinking about what your saying BEFORE you say it.

November 7, 2010 at 10:33 p.m.
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