Mitch Perry Report 2.28.14: The legacy of the Tea Party at age 5

  • Norm Roche

Unlike some political analysts, I learned a while ago that it was foolhardy to predict the imminent demise of the Tea Party, which turns 5 years old this week.

Although most polls (like the New York Times poll from earlier this week) show the Tea Party members representing at most a quarter of the Republican Party electorate, that 25 percent certainly punches above its weight.

Yesterday in Washington D.C. the Tea Party Patriots held a celebration commemorating the anniversary, and said that they still stand strong. That's despite the fact the movement hit its nadir last fall with the 16-day government shutdown that was propelled by the Tea Party's patron saint these days, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

But that debacle has faded away, as issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act are dogging Senate Democrats looking to be re-elected in places like Arkansas and Louisiana, and will be an issue throughout the year.

Locally the results of the Tea Party/9.12/Patriots movement have been mixed. Members of their group helped whip up resentment and confusion into a successful rejection of a Hillsborough County transit tax in 2010, but it's been in Pinellas County where its members have become regular fixtures during County Commissioners meetings.

Many of its members rallied behind the effort to get fluoride out of the drinking water supply in Pinellas County, a move that fueled a huge backlash, with County Commissioners Neil Brickfield and Nancy Bostock the most visible casualties and Norm Roche the most vulnerable local lawmaker in town as he runs for re-election later this year.

Some of those same activists are very involved with the No Tax for Tracks campaign to derail the Greenlight Pinellas initiative, a proposition that looks like it will come down to the wire in November.

All in all, the Tea Party movement has had a major impact on local and national politics, though many would say its effect has been detrimental. But that depends on where you stand on the issues. And one thing is clear. There has been nothing — certainly not the Occupy Wall Street gang — that has had such an oversized impact on the body politic in the aftermath of one of the progressive movement's greatest moments — getting Barack Obama elected in 2008

On to other news..It's Oscar and Independent Film Spirit Award Time. My take on this weekend.

On Thursday, the Republican National Committee reported that 8 finalist cities will compete to host the 2016 Republican National Committee: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Meanwhile the Democratic National Committee has given until Saturday for cities to submit a bid to host its convention in 2016, and that includes Tampa, which of course hosted the RNC two years ago. Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he's disinclined to bid (despite the fact that he and the entire seven-member City Council are Democrats) because of the DNC's previous ban on corporate contributions. Charlotte, the 2012 DNC host, struggled mightily to raise $36 million, while the Tampa Host Committee had no problem raising over $55 million, with the fact that the Republicans could solicit contributions from corporations considered the big difference.

Buckhorn says unless that policy has been changed, it would be too big a reach for Tampa to attempt to host the Democrats in 2012. But as CL reported yesterday, a DNC official says that the policy might be changing.

St.Pete attorney and Democrat Scott Orsini announced he's challenging whichever Republican comes out of the HD69 GOP primary later this year. The seat is in a swing area, previously held by Rick Kriseman for six years, before Kathleen Peters won the open seat in November of 2012.

And a Latino advocacy group is calling on Tampa political officials to champion the idea of having Florida offer drivers' licenses for all, including undocumented immigrants.

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