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Thu April 15, 2010
Local Tea Party Activists Look Beyond Protest Toward Campaigns
Kansas City , Mo. – Kansas City will join the rest of the country this Tax Day by observing the one year anniversary of the first major Tea Party protests. Rallies are planned at the Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kansas, the J.C. Nichols Fountain on the Plaza, and Johnson County Community College, among other places.
Tea Party activists here are in step with their colleagues nationwide in another way - many are running for office. At the same time, the major Republican candidates are courting the Tea Party vote.
Amanda Grosseroade is like many young moms who find themselves meeting in child -friendly places. This day, it's Chick Fil-A in Lenexa.
The former 5th grade school teacher home schools with her husband, a policeman. Family and community are her focus. When she felt federal spending had gotten out of control, and the government had seized too much power, she says she got riled up:
"There had been so many things that had been happening financially in our country,and it impacted me and how I was thinking about the future of MY children."
She and her friends organized a Tax Day protest at Johnson County Community College. To her surprise, thousands turned out.
Over the course of the past year it's become clear to Amanda Grosseroade that the protest isn't the only path to change. She says we must elect "citizen legislators:"
"..that live an ordinary life, and can represent their neighbors....at every level of government. We have to build up a whole new level of representation."
So Amanda Grosseroade filed to run against incumbent Representative Gene Rardin in Overland Park.
A number of different groups have emerged out of the Tea Party movement - the Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Patriots, and Resistnet , among others.
Tea Party activist, Ben Hodge, hasn't affiliated with one or the other. The former Olathe representative is considering running again.
He knows he needs to run as a Republican to win.
But as a libertarian, he says he's not confident today's Republican party represents the interests of Tea Party leaders:
"And when I say right leaders, I do mean conservative. I'm not talking about pro-life, not social issues. We need Republicans who are principled, who are willing to say NO to wasteful spending. This goes to the earmark culture. This goes to all sorts of things."
Earlier this year in Platte County, small businessman Jason Gregory ran in a special election for Missouri house. Americans for Conservative Training , a grass - roots group formed by Tea Party organizers supported Gregory. He lost, but with a respectable 35% of the vote. He's running again this fall:
"People keep volunteering. People keep networking. It's actually quite fun."
Along with Jason Gregory, Americans for Conservative Training has brought up more than 30 more candidates to run for everything from school board to the Missouri state house this year.
At a recent Tea Party event highlighting the problems of illegal immigration, I met Dan Gilyeat. He's a veteran of the Iraq war who lost a leg in combat:
"I fought for our country and I want to continue to fight for our country and now I'm running for Congress"
He's running for the Kansas 3rd District, which includes Johnson County. Dennis Moore won that seat six times as a democrat with help from moderate, fiscally-conservative Republicans.
Many of those moderates voted for Obama.
Gilyeat, who'll run as a Republican, believes voters have changed:
"People need to vote their values and not the party or the government, and if they do I think I'll have a real good chance to continue serving our country like I did for 12 years in the United States Marine corps."
Gilyeat has an uphill battle against his primary challengers, who have more experience and name recognition.
But Johnson County could provide a snapshot into how Tea Party candidates might affect the political landscape this year.
A recent Gallup/USA Today poll said 28% of Americans support Tea Party positions.
Other polls show almost half of Americans consider themselves more in line with the Tea Party... than with President Obama.