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Tea Party divided over endorsement of Connie Mack

In a heated conference call with dozens of Tea Party supporters throughout the state late Sunday, Florida's disparate Tea Party groups debated whether or not to endorse Republican Connie Mack in the Florida U.S. Senate primary.

The call, organized by Freedom Works, the conservative non-profit based in Washington, D.C., became very heated as several tea party backers urged the group to stay out of the primary while the Freedom Works supporters wanted to endorse Mack of Cape Coral, said Henry Kelley, chairman of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party.

"The general consensus was not whether we should back Mack or LeMieux but why are we moving into the middle of a primary,'' Kelley told the Herald/Times. He said he supports LeMieux, in part because of Mack's refusal to debate, but expects most Tea Party members to support the Republican nominee. "Why would you jump in when there are only 60 days left?"

Documents written by Easton Randall of the Freedom Works Foundation show that the organization prefers Mack over LeMieux because of his voting record and his "penny plan" to cut federal spending 1 percent a year. Download Tea Party Florida_Senate_Race_Brief Download Tea Party Mack Florida_6-10

To confuse matters further, Mack has been endorsed by the Tea Party of Florida, the Orlando-based third party group started by activist Doug Guetzloe but which is not supported by grassroots tea party activists around the state.

"That group was anathema to tea party groups throughout the state,'' said Tim Curtis, chairman of the Tampa 912 Project and a local tea party organizer.

He said that many grassroots groups opposed to endorsing a candidate because it woud violate their tax exempt status under the IRS status while others do not believe that a single endorsement can represent their diverse views.

"We are not monolithic,'' said Curtis, who is a registered Democrat. "There is a great, hugh, gynormous diversity of opinion within the tea party groups and 912 groups throughout the state...We have shared principles values views and vision of the nation and upon those tings we do speak with one voice."

Freedom Works is the conservative non-profit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. that was founded by former conservative congressman Dick Armey. Meanwhile, the tea party organization it backs, the Tea Party Express, is finishing a two-month bus tour of the nation in Florida this week. It held a rally in Tallahassee on Sunday attended by Gov. Rick Scott.

Taylor Budowich said the Tea Party Express has endorsed in several Senate races in other states but has not decided whether to endorse in Florida because "the local groups haven't coalesced around a candidate yet."

Kelley, the Fort Walton Beach tea party chief, warned however that many local grass roots organizations are wary of the Tea Party Express because of its affiliation with Armey and Freedom Works. "Dick Armey is a branch of the Republican Party just manipulating the tea party brand,'' he said.



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Tim Curtis

Just so everyone knows - the interview took place over the phone. The quotes are mine but i DID NOT "write" the words - the spellings errors are solely the property of the Miami Herald and its staff. I can spell "things" and "huge." Tim Curtis.

Tim Curtis

.....but I DID NOT "write" ......


Good job Tim.

Here's something for the National Lemonade Stand Day: http://chronicle.augusta.com/opinion/cartoons/2012-06-10/rick-mckee-editorial-cartoon

tom g

Would have been nice if HENRY got his facts right! First, of all the call was initiated by members of various TEA PARTY ORGS/9/12 Groups attending a workshop at the FREEDOMWORKS HEADQUARTERS, it was not initiated by FreedomWorks, and Henry was well aware of this fact. Second, FreedomWorks did provide the document research which despite complaints is still 100% accurate. Third, Tea Party Express and FreedomWorks are no more affilated with each other than Fort Walton Beach Tea Party and Lake County Tea Party. Fourth, the tenur of the call was to discuss if their was much support behind the MACK campaign from teh grassroots...other than the caustic words from two opponents of Mack, one being Mr. Kelly, the tone on the call was very level. Thoughtful opponents like Tom Tillison expressed reasoned retorts while Henry lowered the tone through disparaging remarks, not unlike the tone he took in this inaccurate article. Finally, three to five leaders spoke against endorsing Mack, while the gross majority of those who spoke up, resoundingly endorsed the idea that Mack presented a more conservative record to combat Senator Nelson in November. The reality is, Mr Kelley is lacking veracit both in his description of the call, and his understanding of FreedomWorks...the only major organization which stood against TARP from day one. Mr. Kelley, what is more TEA PARTY than that,...sadly, many within the movement do more to destroy than to build the movement!


Thank you Tom G. I find it problemmatic that "Mr. Kelley" will not participate in open discussion without running to the press. What is his motivation? With friends like him, the Tea Party movement doesn't need enemies. Thank you for relating the facts. It was local Florida Tea Party leaders who set up that phone call with about four hours notice. The facts are so clear, as demonstrated that neither Henry, Tom T or others, address them. Instead they borrow a leftist tactic and attack the messengers.

Florida Alliance Member

I am a member of the Florida Alliance, the statewide coalition of Tea Party leaders across Florida. I was one of the over 90 Tea Party leaders on the call Sunday night.

Here are the facts:

(1) the call was not organized by Freedom Works, it was organized by the Florida Alliance.

(2) There were 2, that's right 2, hardened opponents of Connie Mack's candidacy on that call (out of 90+) - Henry Kelly and Tom Tillison, who were very verbal (some considered their behavior rude) about their opposition to anything Connie Mack. Period... Both of whom are admittedly in the tank for LeMieux

(3) Though both Kelly and Tillison are "activists", they stand alone in their activism as "independents". Neither of them lead any Tea party Group. Neither of them are responsible for running any Tea Party Group in the state. They stand alone in their "activism". Tillison is a blogger and Kelly is basically a lobbyist.

(4) Neither speak for the actual Movement, because neither of them are responsible for organizing, growing, maintaining and supporting any Tea Party Group, anywhere. They carry none of that responsibility, yet hold themselves out as "spokesmen" for the Movement, which frankly they are not. They do not and frankly should never speak for the rest of us who actually do the heavy lifting in actually running a Tea Party group. They are opportunist at best.

(5) Neither Tillison or Kelly are actually active in the Florida Alliance. Kelly has never participated in any of the Florida Alliance activities or events (conference calls, summits, etc.) And, Tillison pulled off of an exit ramp as an active participant over a year ago, siting "his busy schedule and time constraints" as his reason to become what is nothing more than a 'fair weather' level of spotty participation at best.

The truth is that there is a very clear majority of actual and real Tea Party leaders and their groups in Florida that support Connie Mack and do not support George LeMieux.

Our membership probably reflects about the same percentages of Mack supporters, LeMieux supporters, "other" supporters, and undecideds as the recent Quninipiac poll found across the state with "likely voters". That means that LeMieux is in single digits and Mack leads by an impressive percentage.

This article is a prime example of how a miniscule number of people can distort the truth to the detriment of a larger group, and do so because they have a clear and unclean agenda in accomplishing such manipulation.

Don't get suckered.

Juan Pablo

Thank you all here for indirectly providing many of "us" Florida voters and local activists out here with the info that "90 percent" of the various Florida Tea party Groups are endorsing Connie Mack.

Yes - Connie Mack for U.S. Senate to replace In-The-Tank-For-Obama Democrat Sen. Nelson.

Unfortunately, although he is a very nice guy, LeMieux is a Charlie Crist RINO, therefore not suitable.

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