Chattanooga Tea Party brews big day for presidential candidate Rick Santorum

Chattanooga Tea Party brews big day for presidential candidate Rick Santorum

February 25th, 2012 by Chris Carroll in News

Michaele Swiderski, left, and Linda Christian set up a table for Rick Santorum information Friday at Abba's House. Santorum will appear at the Chattanooga Tea Party's Liberty Forum onSaturday.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

• What: Chattanooga Tea Party Liberty Forum featuring Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum

• Where: Abba's House, 5208 Hixson Pike

• When: 1-4 p.m. today. Doors open at 10 a.m. Local politicians and candidates will have 15 to 20 display tables that people can visit before the speeches.

Source: Chattanooga Tea Party


LIBERTY FORUM SPEAKERS

• Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger

• U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann

• Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond

• Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry

• Chattanooga City Councilwoman Pam Ladd

• Presidential candidate Rick Santorum

• State Sen. Bo Watson

Source: Chattanooga Tea Party


GINGRICH VISITING DALTON

Santorum is not the only GOP hopeful coming to the area.

GINGRICH VISITING AREA

Gingrich also is scheduled for a private fundraiser at the Chattanooga Choo Choo at 8 a.m. Tuesday, then he'll travel to hold a public rally in Dalton, Ga., from 11 a.m. to noon at the Northwest Georgia Trade & Convention Center, 2211 Dug Gap Battle Road, according to Gingrich's campaign.


ONLINE COVERAGE

Follow live coverage of presidential candidate Rick Santorum's appearance in Chattanooga today starting at 1 p.m. at www.timesfreepress.com

If you're going to Rick Santorum's speech today in Chattanooga, plan on a long afternoon at Abba's House.

The Chattanooga Tea Party is bankrolling the event at the Southern Baptist church in Hixson, but Tea Party President Mark West declined Friday to publicly release the event's three-hour agenda. Sources close to Santorum's campaign said the Republican presidential candidate would speak toward the end.

The church's auditorium holds 3,100 people, and organizers expect a standing-room-only crowd.

"I don't think we'll have an issue with parking," said Alicia Montijo, event coordinator at the church.

Montijo declined further comment, saying church officials "don't want to get involved in politics."

West said the local tea party paid Abba's House to rent the auditorium, but wouldn't disclose the amount.

"That's probably not relevant," West said.

So far, Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are the only presidential candidates hitting the Chattanooga area before March 6, the day Tennessee, Georgia and eight other states host presidential primaries on what's known as Super Tuesday. Gingrich has scheduled an invitation-only fundraiser in Chattanooga and a public rally in Dalton, Ga., Tuesday.

West encouraged Santorum fans to arrive early today. Doors open at 10 a.m., three hours before the "Liberty Forum" begins at 1 p.m.

Six local elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., will speak before Santorum, who isn't expected to mingle with supporters aside from the speech.

"I think he's in and out -- he's got other commitments," West said. "There's no public meet-and-greet or rally or anything like that."

Alice Stewart, a Santorum spokeswoman, said the former Pennsylvania senator will host a private reception after his speech. She declined to identify the reception's invitees.

"I could, but then it wouldn't be private," she said.

Designed to celebrate the local tea party's third anniversary, the forum will not be televised. Seats are "first come, first served," West said.

Occupy Chattanooga plans to protest the event, and its members promise an emphasis on women's rights. Santorum opposes contraception and abortion rights and has expressed concerns about women in combat.

"Santorum's views on women's place in society, if put into policy, would push American women back to a position from which our historical sisters fought to advance for generations," an Occupy news release stated.

Chattanooga City Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd is the only female and the lone Democrat slated to speak. She said West asked her to speak about fiscal responsibility long before Santorum was booked.

"If it weren't that I felt it was job-related to being [chairwoman], personally, I would have declined the invitation," Ladd said.

The Chattanooga Tea Party retained security for Santorum from the Dignitary Protection Unit, a group of Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputies tasked with protecting visiting politicians and other VIPs.

The unit also provided manpower when U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and civil rights leader, addressed local Democrats earlier this month.

"We offer services regardless of party," said Sheriff Jim Hammond, a Republican.