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Indiana tea partiers at odds over Senate candidate

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TOM COYNE,

Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Five months after helping conservative Republicans earn victories in U.S. Senate, House and General Assembly elections, Indiana tea party groups are divided about how best to move forward with their plans to deny Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar a seventh term.

That division recently became public when leaders of the Elkhart-based Tea Party of Michiana Action Coalition, or TEA-MAC, issued a news release saying the group and some other tea party organizations disavow any affiliation with Hoosiers For Conservative Senate — a recently formed group with the stated purpose of electing a senator who reflects conservative values and adheres to the Constitution.

TEA-MAC leaders say the leaders of Hoosiers For Conservative Senate are attempting to usurp the individuality of tea party members and groups by presenting themselves as the voice of the Indiana tea party movement.

“I, as a tea party person, have to question their intentions,” TEA-MAC co-founder Peter Recchio said. “Anybody who tries to speak for tea parties of Indiana is trying to become the Tea Party from Indiana, which doesn’t exist.”

While Recchio supports the defeat of Lugar, who is viewed by some tea party activists as too moderate, he said he thinks some HFCS supporters haven’t shown the six-term lawmaker the respect he deserves. Recchio also questions why HFCS hasn’t endorsed state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, the only Republican candidate who has announced that he will challenge Lugar in the May 2012 primary.

Mourdock has been a tea party favorite since suing to try to stop the government’s bailout of the auto industry.

HFCS co-chairwoman Monica Boyer denies that she is trying to speak for all Indiana tea parties. She said 76 tea party groups met in January and most agreed to work together to ensure a conservative candidate runs against Lugar in next year’s primary.

Boyer said the groups want to avoid what she calls a mistake that tea party groups made in last year’s Republican Senate primary, when various tea party groups across the state backed different candidates and allowed establishment candidate Dan Coats to win the primary. Still, she said she is happy with Coats, who was elected to the Senate in November.

Boyer, who founded Kosciusko Silent No More based in Warsaw, said HFSC members want to make sure each candidate undergoes careful scrutiny.

“We want to know exactly where he stands on the positions before we take that step of endorsing,” she said.

The HFCS plans to hold a caucus where tea party groups will decide which candidate to back. A caucus date has not yet been set.

Boyer said HFCS is growing, but said she can’t say exactly who makes up the group. Some tea party groups already have endorsed Mourdock while others support HFSC but can’t join it because their organizations don’t endorse candidates, she said.

Recchio contends it’s that ambiguity about who belongs to HFSC that gives the impression that more tea party groups support it.

“By continuing to contend by innuendo in their writings that they represent the state tea parties is inappropriate,” he said.

Recchio said his news release disavowing the HFSC and Boyer is not a sign of dissension among tea party groups or a power struggle. He said he was simply making sure people know Boyer doesn’t speak for all tea party groups.

Observers see the division as a rivalry between neighboring groups.

“The northern groups seem to compete against one another,” said Mark Holwager, a founder of We The People Of Jennings County. “We don’t have that down here.”

Tom Grimes, a founder of the St. Joseph County Tea Party Patriots, was disappointed Recchio sent out the news release.

“I think it was a bad idea airing the dirty laundry,” he said.

State Democratic Party chairman Dan Parker is enjoying that Lugar, who was unopposed in 2006 in the primary and had no Democratic opposition in the general election, will be challenged this year. He also doesn’t mind that there might be a rift among tea party groups.

“Any turmoil on that side of the ledger for me is certainly a good thing,” Parker said.

That’s the challenge of trying to be a political force made up of a myriad of groups without a main leader or spokesman, said Robert Dion, an American politics professor at the University of Evansville.

“To have some sort of free-flowing headless organization with no sort of internal consistency or chain of command is refreshing but unwieldy and likely to be short-lived,” Dion said.

Boyer and Recchio disagree, however, saying that is what gives the tea party movement strength.

“You can’t herd cats. If somebody tries to herd cats, they’re going to fail,” Recchio said. “That very strength, the independence of the tea party, is what makes it a viable and a self-generating group.”

 

Posted 4/11/2011

 

 

 

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