The Tea Party keeps on truckin'

But that was just one isolated example, and history shows that Tea Partiers around the nation haven't been bought off so easily by a longtime incumbent (e.g. Richard Lugar or Bob Bennett) as they were locally.

Although there were plenty of examples of Tea Party inspired Republican voters making the wrong choices in primary elections in 2010 (Christine O'Donnell anyone? How about Sharon Angle?), the 112th Congress brought a flood of hard-right conservatives to Washington, as well as to state capitols everywhere (hello, Rick Scott).

Now there's another 41-year old Cuban American Republican (joining Marco Rubio) who may soon come this fall to work in the nation's capitol (Cruz must defeat Democrat Paul Sadler in November. A Democrat hasn't won statewide in Texas in 18 years).

On Fox News Sunday, Ted Cruz introduced himself to America by boldly stating that he'll work with anyone to bring down the debt.

"I am perfectly happy to compromise and work with anybody," he said. "Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians. I’ll work with Martians. If — and the if is critical — they're willing to cut spending and reduce the debt."

FNS's Chris Wallace asked Cruz about the "conventional wisdom" that the Tea Party was somehow "winding down." Cruz disabused him of that notion.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that, because the conventional wisdom in this town, and for what's that worth, had been — what happened to the Tea Party, that it wasn't out in the streets, and that it didn't have the power, and yes they've won some victories in a few states like Indiana against Lugar but — and Nebraska — but not so many.

In Texas, you ran against establishment candidate, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. You beat him by 13 points. What do you think your victory says about the state of the Tea Party at this point?

CRUZ: Well, I think it's emblematic of where the Tea Party is nationally, which is in 2009, 2010, the movement was just beginning. And you had thousands and thousands of people out in the blazing sun protesting. And as we got forward to 2011 and 2012, those protest died down and I think the reason is the Tea Party went to work. They began rolling up their sleeves, going to work in campaigns, getting involved.

And in our race in Texas, what we saw was incredible. I mean, it was a victory for grassroots conservatives all over the state. And it was — it illustrated at the end of the day, the way elections are supposed to be decided, they are supposed to be decided not by a handful of people in the dark room writing checks and picking the next nominee. But they are supposed to be decided by we the people and it was thousands and thousands of Republican women and Tea Party leaders and grassroots activist that generated our victory.

Locally, Tea Party politics played a big part in the overwhelming defeat of the transit tax in Hillsborough in 2010. One of those 9/12 leaders in Tampa, Sharon Calvert, is now running for county commissioner against longtime Republican legislator Victor Crist, up for re-election after only two years on the local board (Crist spent the previous 18 years representing the North Tampa area in Tally).

And the Tea Party has been quite active in Pinellas County over the past year, helping give comfort to the four Republicans who supported the move at the County Commission level to remove fluoride from the drinking water supply, as well providing consistent criticism about local government spending and a possible ballot measure on light rail. Norm Roche has been their champion since his election in 2010.

And like many local and national Tea Party members, Texas Ted Cruz also condemns Agenda 21, the 1992 U.N. on sustainability that has become the bete noir for the Patriots crowd. Cruz says he'll go after this scheme when elected to Washington, writing on his website that "in the U.S. Senate, I intend to continue leading the fight, to stop Agenda 21 and any other globalist plan that tries to subvert the U.S. Constitution and the liberties we all cherish as Americans. We need fighters in the Senate, who will stand and defend We the People."

Cruz also wants to abolish the federal departments of Education, Commerce and Energy, as well as the TSA and IRS when he gets to Washington.

So no, Cruz' election doesn't show a return to Tea Party power. Perhaps in Wallace's Washington that was the story, but out here in Tampa Bay, it's been a reality for two years now, and counting.

  • Unlike some longtime GOP incumbents, the Tea Party hasn't gone after Pinellas County Congressman Bill Young

Perhaps because Mitt Romney was able to capture the GOP presidential nomination relatively unbloodied (thanks in part to having deeper pockets than any of his challengers) that the impression that the Tea Party's time in the sun was ebbing became part of the beltway's conventional wisdom.

If so, shame on those political reporters who said or wrote that. Having been guilty of making that same statement two years ago, I know I've learned my lesson.

Stories about the Tea Party's "resurgence" have surfaced in recent days after Ted Cruz defeated Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the Lone Star state's GOP Senate primary last Tuesday. Dewhurst was backed by Rick Perry. As Jim Hightower said earlier this week, getting to the right of Rick Perry is quite a political contortion.

CL made the mistake back in the spring of 2010 of writing off the movement as only so much hype, after we saw how a Tea Party candidate in Pinellas County announced he would challenge long-time incumbent Bill Young in a GOP Primary later that year. At the time you may recall, Tea Party activists said when they burst on the scene that they weren't necessarily Republican in party preference, but condemned all career politicians, especially those who have been using Washington as their personal piggy bank for programs and/or projects that were raising the country's level of debt astronomically.

Well, wouldn't that make Young an ideal target? Through his work on the appropriations committee over the years he was known derisively as a top "porker,' bringing home millions of dollars to Pinellas County.

But when that particular candidate (named Eric Forcade) dropped out of the race and ended up endorsing Young, well, that seemed to us to illustrate a certain level of hypocrisy, especially he complained that he couldn't raise any money amongst local Republicans.


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