Kansas City – While many Tea Party activists went to protest the health care debate in Washington this week, activists in this area are shifting directions. They're moving away from protests and rallies in favor of election campaigns.
The Kansas City Tea Party provides a picture of what some Tea Party activism may look like as the campaign season unfolds.
At the center of the local effort is a 21 year old college student named Andrea Plunkett.
Learning The Basics From Family
In her layered T shirts and multi-pierced ears, Andrea Plunkett looks less like a business owner, and more like a business student. Not a conservative one, either.
But in a corner office of her parent's successful glass company north of the river, she's preparing her first tax return as the owner of a political consulting firm. Her goal is to take Tea Party activists off the streets and into the voting booth.
To that end, she's diligently acquiring lists of local and state seats: "I've got the list of precinct seats right here."
Home- schooled in an opinionated, outspoken, and conservative family, her parents, Jim and Sherry Plunkett, say Andrea was running campaigns by the time she was 16 - including her father's for Platte County Commission. Jim Plunkett say's he's not surprised she's doing a lot at such a young age: "I can remember we took Andy to a Sam Graves fundraiser and she wanted to shake George Bush's hand. I didn't think she'd get up there in time so I said 'go ahead and try.' Mom and I went to sit down, and both daughters ended up shaking hands with the President at that time."
The Tea Party Finds A Voice
In 2008 Andrea volunteered for the McCain campaign. After the election, she stayed in touch with fellow volunteers via email and Facebook.
When the new Congress passed more money for the stimulus bill, bailed out Wall Street, and the auto industry, the local activists joined other Tea Party protesters and began to organize.
With Andrea Plunkett behind the scenes, the local Tea Party found its voice on Tax Day, when several thousand people blanketed the lawn in front of Liberty Memorial to hear conservatives like talk show host Chris Stigall fired up about government activities: " Here we are! Me and a few thousand of my closest radical friends who reject federal authority, in favor of state and local authority!"
Armed with thousands more emails from the Tax Day rally, Andrea formed Americans for Conservative Training, or ACT. They began campaign workshops, training sessions, and public speak-outs where anyone could voice an opinion: "I was forced to listen to a Jihad by the liberal media; There is only one way and that is God."
Moving to Campaigns
Andrea sometimes simplifies issues. For example, the complexities of global warming are not caused by humans, but changes in global weather, and we'll solve our immigration problem by closing our borders and welcoming just those willing to come in through legal channels.
But that hasn't hurt her business.
She recently met up with her client, Jacob Turk, at Charlie Hooper's in Brookside to talk about his race against 5th District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver. They went over plans for an upcoming event: "What time is the ribbon cutting?" "Hopefully around 4."
While Andrea's peers drink beer and watch basketball, her fingers fly across her Blackberry, which she checks constantly.
Jacob Turk says it's understandable she's getting national recognition for her abilities: "She's good at organizing,looking at races with a dispassionate eye, that sort of thing."
As midterm elections approach, there are some 17 hundred ACT volunteers, and Andrea says they've figured out what direction they're going for now: "Were exhausted from running so many events. They're so time intensive, and the excitement dies down, the participation dies off. We're in transition from a Tea Party - rally ,event - planning group to functional driven, grass - roots volunteer base."
That is, a base that can get conservative candidates elected on the Republican ticket. ACT already has more than half a dozen candidates registered for local races. The name of the Platte County Central Committee GOP candidate will be a familiar one.
It's Andrea Plunkett.