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Tea Party to Target GOP Rail Backers Next Year

When lawmakers successfully passed legislation earlier this week that could bring more commuter and high speed rail to the state, 80 Republicans climbed aboard.

Two days later, conservatives “Tea Party” activists who think the rail legislation amounts to a government-sponsored boondoggle say come election time, some of those GOP lawmakers may pay the price.

In a letter to members of the newly registered Tea Party, chairman Fred O’Neal said the group will target 61 House and 19 Senate Republicans who voted in favor of rail in the recently concluded special legislative session. The measure clears the way for commuter rail projects, including SunRail in the Orlando area and sends state money to help bail out struggling Tri-Rail in South Florida.

"We are currently evaluating each individual race to determine the feasibility of running Tea Party candidates in races with a Republican incumbent who voted for the rail boondoggle and jeopardized the taxpayers of Florida,” O’Neal said.

Republican supporters of the rail package reached Thursday by the News Service of Florida said they were confident they can satisfactorily explain their votes to even the most conservative of party members.

O’Neal didn’t identify any candidates the fledgling party has recruited so far, but said he was talking to potential challengers for those who voted yes.

Meanwhile the deal's most prominent GOP supporter, Gov. Charlie Crist, said he's also not worried about conservative backlash for his vocal support for rail as he fights off a challenge from former House Speaker Marco Rubio to become the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.

"I'm not concerned about it," Crist said. "I'm concerned about jobs for the people of Florida. We all need to be focused on that. All of us serve the people and that's my focus and that's the reason why I think it was important to pass it. It's not a Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative issue, it's a jobs issue."

One Republican who voted for the measure said he was comfortable with the final product.

“My priority was to make sure that a $2 rental surcharge was not in the bill and a group of us in the Senate was successful in doing that,” said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart. “The proposal does not in any way raise fees or taxes. It gives local governments the chance to decide on commuter rail.”

O’Neal disagreed, saying eventually taxpayers will likely be on the hook, citing the troubles Tri-Rail has had in sustaining itself.

Negron said he’s already been sending information to concerned constituents to outline his vote give them more background on the bill’s effects.

“There has been a lot of misinformation out there on the Internet,” Negron said. .

Likewise, Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said he’s confidant he can weather any Tea Party storm. The bill as written will spur economic development and set the groundwork for efficient public transportation, both laudable goals, Richter said.
“My record on conservative priorities speaks for itself,” Richter said.

While a few in the GOP have dismissed grass roots conservative activists who have expressed anger at moderates in the party, many party insiders say the Tea Party faction can’t be ignored.

Charlotte County Republican Chairman Bob Starr acknowledged that Tea Party activists could turn into a potent force that might fracture the conservative strength of the Florida GOP.

"We have to figure out how we can bring these people into the fold and harness their energy toward working for Republican causes," Starr told a quarterly meeting of the state party Thursday in Tallahassee.

23 Responses »

  1. And what? Elect Democrats who'll say whatever you want to hear just to garner some conservative votes?

  2. Someone should let the Tea Party people know that our highways are just as subsidized as mass transit - the gas tax only covers about 50% to 60% of all road costs. The rest is subsidized from the general budget. But...

    High speed trains on the other hand, if built by the government can be leased out to private companies to operate for a profit. This is what France, Japan, and many other countries with high speed trains do. Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, the only current high speed rail line in the United States actually generates runs in the black, generating a profit.

    This is just the same as our airports. The government builds them, then leases space out to private companies to operate for a profit. Private industry benefits from using the government as a long-term, low-interest rate bank (slowly paying back the initial investment), and people benefit from quality service provided by private companies.

    So, funding high speed trains would allow us to travel around the state at 200mph compared to 65mph for driving and allow a private company to operate it for a profit while paying back the government over time?

    Now it's easy to see why 80 Republicans supported this.

  3. Ain't there a couple of old folksy sayings that seen applicable?
    "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water on account of one issue"
    "One rotten apple like Charlie Crist spoils the whole barrel and needs to be thrown out"
    Perhaps didn't recall the old sayings quite right, but the general idea is to "Tea Party" a select FEW and not commit mass suicide.

  4. Florida Tea Party O.S. Senator candidate Jorge Antonio Lovenguth link says:

    This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, it is an American INDEPENDENT people issue!

    America celebrates Independence Day, not a republican day nor a democrat day. Remember that fact. This talk of a rail which was passed years ago and cancelled and now being brought up as a new idea is BS.

    “Pass the Word” and do your research. This is just a gift to CSX.

    Florida Americans, Do it now!

    • >This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, it is an American INDEPENDENT people issue!

      While this sounds so very intellectual and patriotic; it doesn't match with reality. The reason Independents have any influence on elections is because they either choose to side with one of the major parties, or they bring in a third party member and harm the party they normally vote with. Two cases in point: Ross Perot and Ralph Nader. Bith of these candidates siphoned votes away from the party their Independent supporters voted with and gave the election to the party they normally oppose.

      Some would say their issue is more important than an election, othrs would say don't throw the baby out with the bath water. It's the difference between being an idealist and a pragmatist. I'm of the opinion that pragmatic idealism is a more effective position to take.

      Like it or not, America has two major Parties- one of the two are going to lead: choose your side.

  5. Florida Tea Party United States Senator candidate Jorge Antonio Lovenguth link says:

    This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, it is an American INDEPENDENT people issue!

    America celebrates Independence Day, not a republican day nor a democrat day. Remember that fact. This talk of a rail which was passed years ago and cancelled and now being brought up as a new idea is BS.

    “Pass the Word” and do your research. This is just a gift to CSX.

    Florida Americans, Do it now!

    • This is Idealism without pragmatism. Very lofty, very noble: not very pragmatic. A vote for a "Tea Party" candidate is a vote for a liberal by default. You'd think after Perot, Nader and others people would learn. . .

      note: I've written a local Tea Party leader about the "Third Party" mentality. That leader has yet to return a response: I will wait until Sunday night to write about the issue on Morning in America.

    • A vote for a Tea Party candidate will be a vote for the Dems. It's just that simple. It will fracture the GOP, and leave the Dems in power, and down deep I truly believe every Republican and Tea Party supporter knows that. Like it or not it's Dem or GOP. We have to live in the real world if we expect to win elections. The Tea Party has some salient points, but they must be incorporated into the GOP if worthy, and Tea Party supporters need to accept that. Their idealism will go down in flaming defeat to the Dems if they think they can win on their own - isn't going to happen, and they know that. Some tell me they'd rather vote for "what's right" and go down in defeat than vote for something less. Sounds wonderful, but it's that attitude which will continue Obama and the liberals in charge. I'd far rather compromise, and at least have a more palatable government than let the socialists keep running things. Idealism is worthless as a concept - only power lets you achieve anything.

  6. This Tea Party may just be the big mistake that will ensure the re-election of Obama and the Dems. Voting for rail does not make a Republican an automatic candidate for defeat. There's a lot of waste in government, but supporting rail as a transportation alternative is not one of them. I'm starting to see Tea Party members as moving so far to the right they're as out of touch as the loony left.

    • Richard, I hope you're wrong. Sometimes success goes to people heads: they lose their perspective, and the peripherals that facilitated that success. Hopefully, this isn't the case with Tea Party leaders. As a Republican I can honestly say we need them. But we need them without the narcissism that success sometimes brings.

      • I hope I'm wrong too. I support the Tea Party concept, but earnestly hope it doesn't radicalize too far to the right. The GOP simply must realize that playing only to the radical right will not win elections. The majority of Americans tend to position themselves to the right of center, but only a small percentage are clear to the right. That group usurped the '08 election, and we're all paying the price now with Obama in the White House. Drawing our line in the sand on the right edge will only guarantee liberal domination of the government. Four years may be a disaster, and eight years might be terminal. As far as a third party Tea Party there is no doubt in my mind it would simply re-elect Obama - no question about it. I can see the liberals smiling all over the place if the third party concept takes root. That idea should be DOA. While it may be an idyllic idea to some it's worthless if they can't win, and the GOP and Tea Party would only kill off one another. A GOP appealing to independents, moderates and conservatives is the answer for victory.

  7. Got a very interestsing e-mail from A Tea Party movement leader today. It seems the title "Tea Party" has been highjacked by an attorney who'd had little or nothing to do with the grass roots movement. Once more an attorney illustrates why people don't think much of their profession.

    So this isn't the Tea Party grass roots organization: it's another opportunist trying to capitalize on the hard work of others.

    What was that saying on Fat Albert?
    No Class!

  8. So, if this is the case, we have a group of Independents that have FINALLY found a name for themselves. Although they didn't create the name: it apparently wasn't "copyrighted, so they snagged it up ("thats legal, you know).
    In my opinion it's not very honest, but it's apparently "legal"

    Because I'm tired of slick, tricky, posturing politicians: I think this new Party and subsequently, their candidate isn't worth voting for. That's my opinion, but I don't like being "fooled". Does anyone else?

  9. THe democrats and republicans want to maintain the staus quo of a twoparty stranglehold on policy. The problem is both parties are run by the same special interest big money donors. All of the scare tactics of "if you vote for a tea party or tea party backed candidate you are enabling the liberals to win" is a farce. If you look at New York 23rd you will see that the preservation of a two party system is more important to the Democrats and Republican Parties than ideology. Both Parties will make this argument to preserve the Status quo. In either case a vote for a Democrat or Republican is a vote to continue the destrucition of this nation. We must break the two party system to preserve America and I for one dont care which party dies first.

    • I'm not against a third party, but I'll guarantee you if anyone thinks that '10 or '12 is the time to elect a Tea Party (or other party) candidate they have been drinking spiked tea. If independents and conservatives split from the GOP and vote third party it'll guarantee a continuation of liberal control of government. It's not a "scare tactic" - it's the absolute truth and pragmatists recognize that. A review of history will show what happens when third parties siphon votes from one party more than the other - it tips victory to the other party. Rarely is it successful although a few independents have managed victory - Sen Lieberman case in point. I'm a registered Republican leaning more independent, and disgusted with both parties, but will take the GOP any day over the Dems.

  10. My understanding is a lawyer realized that "Tea Party" hadn't been copyrighted and decided to cash in on the movements successes. I spoke with a local Tea Party grassroots organizer and was informed that they were as surprised by the presumptuous move as everyone else. While this may be "legal" it certainly strikes me as dishonest.

  11. The movment is using facebook as a tool to encourage membership. I've noticed there are a lot of Libertarians and vociferous Ron Paul supporters
    enganged with this aquisition of a name. In my mind this is another attempt at the obfuscation that has cosistently deminished their gravitas.

  12. UPDATE: After refuting the Tea Party-Party's accusation that I just sit around and complain, and their inability to refute my explanation of how the "Party" was established, I get an e-mail asking me to give this guy a call.
    -Nah, he's already illustrated he may walk a path deemed "legal" , he certainly walk one that I wouldn't consider to be "honorable".

    One will also notice that Jorge Luvenguth got his propoganda-type reply in the conversation here, but hasn't been back. That tells me if he were elected, he give some prepared statement on a subject: then ignore his constituents when they disagree with him.

    Quite frankly, we've had enough of that from Washington. Why would I vote for someone who illustrates he'll practice that very same form of posturing?
    In a thought: "It ain't gonna happen".

  13. Austin,
    So what you're saying is I can vote for Lumpy-guth, or I can vote for a conservative?

  14. The silence from the Tea Party party is deafening. This affirms the conclusions we've discussed here.

  15. One will notice the unwillingness of the obfuscators to respond.

  16. The Florida Tea Party registered by Doug Guetzloe and his tax-dodging lawyer IS NOT BACKED BY TEA PARTY PATRIOTS!

    Conservatives cannot and must not support Paula Dockery over Bill McCollum.

    The Guetzloe party is a FAKE. There's nobody from the Tea Party Patriots involved, just a few fringe types including Doug Guetzloe - he’s a scumbag and crook and exploiter. He’s proven he’ll always support whoever pays him.

    The so-called Florida Tea Party is set up ONLY to run RINO Dockery as a third party candidate for Governor in the general election.

    Guetzloe thinks we are all stupid in this movement. We did not found the Tea Party only to have it hijacked by a corrupt pol to set up a run for a RINO against a true conservative - VOTE FOR MCCOLLUM!

    Don't be fooled... Guetzloe is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  17. As the writer above clearly states, "the Tea Party Patriots are not involved."

    Lovenguth says "Register to vote."