Tea party rallies around country seek to build conservative momentum ahead of Nov. elections

By Robin Hindery, AP
Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tea party rallies seek momentum as elections near

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Thousands of tea party activists are expected to gather Sunday in Sacramento and at two other major rallies around the country, as the movement’s leaders look to energize conservatives before the November election.

Rallies also are being held in St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

Organizers say the events aim to call attention to what they describe as big government run amok and to recall the sense of national unity Americans felt the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But the rallies also represent an opportunity to build momentum before the general election. The tea party is counting on its members to turn out in large numbers and prove the movement is a political force with staying power.

“We do not see our commitment as a short-term process,” said Ginny Rapini of Colfax, the national adviser and coordinator of NorCal Tea Party Patriots, the group behind the Sacramento event. “Our vigilance will not be finished this November, in 2012 or beyond. We see this as a lifetime struggle for all of us to preserve this precious Republic that was handed to us by our founders some 230 years ago.”

Two tea party favorites, conservative commentator Glenn Beck and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, spoke to a crowd in Anchorage, Alaska late Saturday, recalling their thoughts and feelings the day of the 9/11 attacks.

“Here we are so many years later, and I fear we are forgetting,” Beck told the crowd of thousands who paid between $73.75 and $225 for tickets.

Beck was to donate his speaking fee to Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides scholarships and services to families of military members. Palin wasn’t paid for her appearance.

The Sacramento event will be held at the former McClellan Air Force Base and is expected to draw between 25,000 and 50,000 people.

Tea Party Patriots claims to be the nation’s largest tea party group, with 2,700 chapters across the country, including at least 175 in California.

The Washington rally is co-organized by FreedomWorks, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative nonprofit advocacy group. Its leader, former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, is one of the scheduled speakers.

Tea party activists reject characterizations of their movement as an extension of the GOP, but the vast majority of its members are Republicans and independents who vote Republican.

In California, a January Field Poll found that while 52 percent of registered Republicans in the state identify with the movement “some” or “a lot,” just 14 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of independents felt that way.

“It’s no secret that for the past year, House Republicans and their candidates have all embraced the Tea Party and Right Wing fringe in order to win votes,” Ryan Rudominer, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in an e-mail. “As a result, the Republican Party agenda has become the Tea Party agenda and vice versa, and that’s what will be on full display this weekend at these Right Wing rallies.”

Tea Party Patriots identifies itself as nonpartisan and does not officially endorse candidates. But the lineup for Sunday’s events is far from politically diverse.

Speakers include current and former Republican lawmakers, gun-rights supporters and Andrew Breitbart, a conservative Los Angeles blogger. His July post of an edited video featuring U.S. Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod gave the misleading impression she was racist and led to her forced resignation.

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