Local Tea Party folks keep eye on national convention from afar

A year into the national tea party experiment, Grand Valley tea partiers are more focused on state and local matters, even as the national movement gathers today in Nashville for its convention.

It’s no small difference that while national organizers are working to build a formal Tea Party movement, the Grand Valley is home to several groups that generally consider themselves part of a less-structured tea party movement.

It’s a common theme among the conservative leaders of the movement that they’ve taken on the job of herding cats, but they also take pride in the amorphous nature of their movement.

“The biggest thing is that it’s people who have never been involved,” said Richard Schoenradt, treasurer of the Western Slope Conservative Alliance. “I was never involved prior to the 2008 election; ‘08 changed a lot of stuff.”

The tea party movement gets its name from the Boston Tea Party of 1773, when colonists threw tea off ships in Boston Harbor in a taxation-without-representation protest.

In the Grand Valley, the modern tea party movement attracted about 3,000 people to Lincoln Park last April 15, the same day selected for tea parties across the nation.

There isn’t just one tea party movement, though. There are several, most of which gather beneath the conservative-alliance umbrella. Tea partiers are not necessarily the same as members of the 9-12 Project promoted by radio personality Glenn Beck, and even some 9-12ers say they’re not to be confused with a 9-12 faction working to build a national movement.

While they’re generally Republicans, at least in the Grand Valley, generic tea partiers see themselves more as conservatives, said Jennifer Bailey, vice chairwoman of the Western Slope Conservative Alliance and head of the Western Colorado 9-12 Project.

“We’re trying to fill the chasm between the people and the parties,” Bailey said. To be sure, Bailey said, that means pulling the Republican Party more to the conservative side “that they’ve lost over the last several decades.”

The movement, however, isn’t limited to the GOP, she said.

Libertarians make up a significant part of the movement, Bailey said.

“We’re also seeing a lot of Democrats who are disgusted with the turn of the country,” Bailey said. “They’re not drawn to the Republican Party, but they are conservative, and they’re not feeling part of their party.”

The movement, said Rose Pugliese, is made up largely of people who felt ignored by the political system.

“We’re just tired of not being heard,” Pugliese said, and party affiliation “is not the point.”

Western Colorado conservatives consciously decided to be heard on local matters.

As a national movement convenes in Tennessee, Grand Valley conservatives will hear out three Republican candidates for House District 54 — David Cox, Bob Hislop and Ray Scott — at 6:30 tonight and then issue an endorsement.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is to speak Saturday to the national convention.

Pugliese said she is interested in Palin’s comments, while Schoenradt isn’t so much.

“The radio will be on the right station,” but it will be in his car on the way to the ski slope, Schoenradt said. “You have to do some of the fun things as well.”


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