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Flagler Tea Party Frets As Numbers Dwindle And Excitement Appears Elusive

| February 16, 2012

Where were they? Flagler's tea party group once drew 300 people a meeting. Not Thursday. (FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Tea Party Group is worried–even “scared,” in the word of one of its members: the tea party is losing steam. It’s lacking excitement. It’s losing the interest of its former firebrands. It’s looking at too many empty seats.

And there were quite a few of those at the tea party’s monthly meeting this evening, held, as usual, at Flagler Palm Coast High School’s Bulldog Café. Meetings once drew upwards of 300 people. Thursday’s meeting (the first held on a Thursday, as opposed to Tuesday, so it didn’t conflict with government meetings) drew fewer than 100 people (actually, 85, not counting a reporter). The turn-out was low despite an agenda designed to plan the critical months between now and the election in November, culminating in what party chairman Tom Lawrence described, with hope, as “a victory party” in December.

One after the other, members of the party stood up to lament the absence of excitement in their presidential choices (“we don’t have a candidate,” one member said), and the absence of urgency in an election year that has none of 2010’s tea party surge. “We here have to get excited, we have to  step forward and say yes, I’m going to fight for my constitution,” one member said, citing the email all members had received, urging them to bring a friend. Not many friends had showed up, he said.

“The apathy here is very, very bad, in my opinion,” yet another member said, going as far as saying that the more the economy improves, the less interest there may be to bring out interest in tea party concerns, because matters are not hitting voters’ pocket books as much. “I think the apathy we have right now is because we don’t have a candidate running for president,” one more member said. “Once we get a leader, I think you’re going to see an outpouring of support.” The hoped-for name on most lips: Rick Santorum.

Numbers are crucial to the tea party movement: if tea party meetings and rallies don’t draw large numbers, the tea party’s influence wanes on election day, and politicians, from federal to state to local elections, pay less attention. The next few months will tell whether the local tea party has hit a lull—as has its equivalents across the state and the nation—or whether it’s now past its prime. On march 26, the local tea party will hold a rally on “Obamacare” in Palm Coast, in conjunction with similar rallies across the nation. On April 16, it’ll hold its annual Tax Day rally. On July 19, it’ll host its meet-and-greet for political candidates. The local tea party’s meet-the-candidate evenings have tended to be the best attended, barring some debates.

Meanwhile, the group has to pay attention to its finances: it has $1,400 left in its treasury, but Lawrence is pushing for putting up another get-out-the-vote billboard on I-95, one similar to the billboard the group put up in 2010. That cost $4,100 for three months. It also costs the group about $750 a year in insurance and rental fees (for the monthly gatherings at Bull Dog Café). The group is looking for money. Lawrence urged his members to contribute.

He then introduced Casey Ginsburg, an emissary from the conservative group called American Majority, to make a pitch that could net about $600. American Majority joined Nascar Nation to conduct mass registrations. It does so with “volunteers.” The word is in quote marks because the volunteers are, in effect, paid, if at a remove: Case proposed to the local tea party that if it could rustle up 25 such “volunteers” who’d be willing to spend at least four hours registering people going to the races in Daytona Beach over the next week or so, each volunteer could net the tea party group $25, for a total of $625. Ginsburg described American Majority as a non-partisan organization, though it is, of course, nothing of the sort, even by her own words: “If we can increase turnout in Florida 10 percent, what does that mean? We win the election.” She explained the values behind the “we”: “We are so conservative we don’t even take corporate funds. We are funded by successful businessmen,” she said, though in reality the group is one of the tea party’s more visible and powerful organizations. Several people signed up for the volunteering drive.

Officially, the local tea party group is sticking by its stated policy of not endorsing. But public sentiment voiced at the meeting made clear, as it has in the past, to what extent the policy is at odds with practice: there is no question that the group is looking for candidates to back—and that it is in search of those candidates, if only to revive the excitement that fueled it two years ago. Still, Lawrence batted down suggestions that the local group start backing individual politicians more overtly. “If we start picking local candidates, we’re just going to get mad at each other,” he said.

Tea party meetings preserve the feel of town hall meetings where discussion can be free-wheeling, and far less rigidly controlled than at more formal party meetings. At various points, discussions veered in various directions, such as when Ted St. Pierre got up to speak about his recent appearance before the Flagler County School Board to complain about images of the Statue of Liberty and the American flag, drawn by students at FPC, he and other veterans found offensive. That launched others into questioning the state of education, of history and the teaching of the Constitution being out the window.”

St. Pierre had other complaints about the school board, prompting Lawrence to ask him if he’d volunteer to be the group’s monitor of the school board. The previous monitor was Bill McGuire, now a council member in Palm Coast. St. Pierre accepted, as long as the assignment did not interfere with his other one, he said: he chairs Rick Santorum’s local committee.

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59 Responses for “Flagler Tea Party Frets As Numbers Dwindle And Excitement Appears Elusive”

  1. I’m so sad to hear that.


  2. …in the “not really at all” sense…


  3. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    I thought about attending, then I remembered I have to paint the cat.


  4. Sandra Reynolds via Facebook says:

    Shouldn’t they be happy the economy is improving?


    • The Truth says:

      They aren’t because they don’t truly believe the economy is getting better. They are so brainwashed by the GOP that they will fight tooth and nail until Obama is voted out. Unfortunately for them, the dopes they have running for nomination have no shot at all.


      • Layla says:

        @The Truth: Do we have jobs, have the foreclosures stopped? Do you realize this group is bipartisan?

        I think the County Dog Catcher could probably beat Obama this time. ABO!


      • peggy says:

        @The Truth-The traitor in the white house has allowed black panthers to intimidate white people at the polls. eric holder orchestrated “fast & furious”. the economy is not better, people are falling off the unemployment rolls. y not check the welfare roll numbers to see if they have not risen in conjunction w/our “better economy”. if there r more “JOBS” they r govt jobs, because the government is bigger and more intrusive than ever. i am not brainwashed, u sir/madam have drunk the cool-aid, not i. obama is shredding our constitution, has agents in our schools seizing children’s lunches. The man is not even eligible to be in office. as far as the truth, “Truth”, u probably r employed by our fine socialist government, which knows no TRUTH.


    • Layla says:

      The economy isn’t improving. Do you see jobs? Lawrence changed the night the group meets and that is why his turnout is so low.

      That is all. He’s got over 1200 registered members.


  5. Kendall Clark-StJacques via Facebook says:

    Anybody want to have a counter demonstration on March 26?


  6. The American says:

    The Flagler Tea Party has to get rid of Lawrence. He has his agenda’s and one of them is the Chamber of Commerce. The Tea Party stands for the Constitution. The Tea Party stands for small government. The Tea Party stands for the federal government to get out of our business. The Tea Party should be a united group guided by strong values of which this Tea Party lacks.


    • Layla says:

      Very true and another good reason why turnout is low. Lawrence and Martone are both involved with local candidates and word has gotten out. He has his own political agenda and that too has gotten out.

      Time for new leadership.

      The American’s assessment of this Tea Party is correct.

      If you check the numbers of nearby Tea Parties, their numbers are not dwindling, they are growing.


    • We the people are waking up says:

      Maybe because of Commissioner Milissa Holland and her involvement in Agenda 21. We the people are fed up!!!!!!!


  7. Maureen Vidal via Facebook says:

    A headline and a picture like that makes me a happy camper.


  8. The Truth says:

    The tea party was a joke from the beginning. They had no idea what their agenda really was other than trying to prove President Obama was not born in the USA… we all know how that ended.


  9. Yellowstone says:

    No, I think the TParty has now come to the realization that what they profess is not in their best interests.

    You can’t have someone representing the TParty shouting about ‘black people’ (which RS now says he was misquoted),

    And you can’t promote a society that has little regard for those that need things, like: unemployment insurance because some CEO decided to sell his job overseas- or medical for his family.

    You can’t be serious and suggest you want your Federal pension cut, and you prefer no Social Security, or Medicare.

    Good luck to you if you think these ideas will float the GOP.


    • Layla says:

      Cutting spending not in our best interests? Nobody in the Tea Party is suggesting cutting social security or medicare.

      How about the salaries and benefits of our elected officials in Washington? How about a prez and congress who must abide by the constitution? How about cutting some of that foreign aid and grant money?

      Wonder how many fools don’t understand that WE PAY for all this? so the bigger government gets, the more WE OWE. It doesn’t matter who is in the White House. That is why Americans are angry and we are NOT staying home.


  10. rickg says:

    The Baggers are running out of steam because the Melon-Scaifes and the Koch Bros can see the light. They have no viable candidate, circus clowns maybe but no candidate.


  11. Layla says:

    If you ask anyone who has ever belonged to a Tea Party somewhere else what they think of this one, they will tell you that this is no Tea Party here.

    Don’t know if that makes any sense. They go through the motions, but have very little organization and very few activities. This group is tightly controlled by a handful of people who make all the decisions for the group.

    It could definitely use new leadership.


  12. palmcoaster says:

    @American well said. Is always the Chamber popping up every where around the political arena when they should be only taking care of all their business members that instead seriously neglect.
    Great idea the counter demonstration, lets go for a big rally and show them!


  13. Mike says:

    Pretty soon they will be able to hold their meetings in a toilet bowl.

    Don’t forget to flush!


  14. vincent liguori says:

    It is truly sad to see the many democrats(Obama, Pelosi and Reid lovers) who want to see the demise of America and our constitution.


    • Deb says:

      And that’s why you will lose, you drop those bombs, and offer no insight to why that is or isn’t the case. If Its just that you don’t like the democrats, then say that, but just dropping provocative statements like that without explaining what you mean is just lazy. Thats my opinion of teabaggers, lazy, whiny, not very bright folks. You have a serious PR problem.


  15. Doug Chozianin says:

    Just a little reminder…

    Obamacare = Death panels and higher medical costs for all (except the Obama Poor).

    High Gas Prices = Poorer Americans if you drive, Higher food prices (Trucks use Diesel) if you do or don’t. (Don’t forget higher fertilizer costs.)

    Bigger Government = Higher Taxes and more regulations (fat people beware… and if you’re not fat, goodby soda, burgers, fries, pizza and ice cream. Hello arugula…) Also, no more Rush, only FlaglerLive 24/7/365.

    Inflation = Poorer standard of living especially at retirement. Have you bought a steak lately?

    Bankrupt Social Security = No payroll taxes. Seniors, Obama wants to bankrupt you (Don’t worry, Obamacare will provide free “final” doses of pain medication.).

    Golf Carts = A.K.A Chevy Volts at $40,000 a pop. BOOM!!!!

    Brave New World = Obama re-election. (Read / re-read the book!!!)

    1984 anyone?


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