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.
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.
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.”
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
been a tea party favorite since suing to try to stop the government’s
bailout of the auto industry.
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.
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
it’s that ambiguity about who belongs to HFSC that gives the impression that
more tea party groups support it.
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.
the division as a rivalry between neighboring groups.
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.
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.
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.
Recchio disagree, however, saying that is what gives the tea party movement
“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.”