Tea party sets its sights on local elections for next two years

By   /   November 16, 2010  /   News  /   No Comments

By Stephen Groves — American Majority vows Tuesday to recruit and train 10,000 candidates for local, state and federal offices over the next two years.

WASHINGTON- The tea party is barely catching its breath before launching a new initiative to recruit candidates for 2011 and 2012.

American Majority, a conservative candidate-training organization, and a dozen tea party leaders held a press conference on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. at the National Press Club to announce their plan to find and train 10,000 candidates for elections at the local, state, and federal levels.

“In order for [the tea party] to remain a potent force for real and lasting change, it must grow from the ground up,” said Ned Ryun, president of American Majority and a former presidential speech writer for George W. Bush. “American Majority and the tea party movement are not interested in change for one or two election cycles, we are interested in generational change.”

The organization plans to make this change by training candidates for office through a “New Leaders Project” which will receive a “seven-figure” infusion of cash said Ryun’s twin brother Drew Ryun who runs American Majority Action. The plan calls for local tea party leaders to identify potential candidates to run for state and local office in the next couple years.

“We are tired of not having a voice at the local level, on the school boards and in the General Assembly,” said Lisa Blais from the Rhode Island Tea Party.

In this year's elections, Republicans gained 675 legislative seats according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. One or both chambers of the statehouse switched from blue to red in 13 states. Republicans also won 15 of the 25 governor's mansion's up for election this year.

At the federal level, the GOP made significant gains as well. In the House, Republicans took control by gaining 60 seats. Democrats maintained control of the Senate, but lost six seats.

But many conservative lament that Republicans could have at least gained a couple more Senate seats. The tea party movement has been criticized for putting forward inexperienced candidates, such as Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada, who cost the GOP potential gains in the elections.

“Others see the movement as being defined by candidates who in the last election were not perceived as credible,” Ned Ryun said. “… New leaders must be found starting right now who have the ability to effectively communicate the ideas of free enterprise and limited government and fiscal responsibility, while at the same time running sound campaigns.”

The project plans to build a “farm team” of candidates at the local level to work up to higher offices in statehouses and Congress.

There will be no federal elections in 2011, but three gubernatorial elections, four state legislatures, and several mayoral positions will be up for grabs.

The tea party leaders at the conference said they wanted an independent, grassroots role in organizing the movement. They said national groups like the Tea Party Patriots or FreedomWorks take a top-down approach. Several tea party groups have been scuffling for influence in the incoming Congress this week.

“[FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity] wanted to tap into my network of membership and turn them into volunteers. They wanted me take my 2,000-member organization and get my 2,000 members out walking precincts for them. That completely defeats the purpose of what we’re doing,” said Lesley Hollywood from the Northern Colorado Tea Party.

American Majority pledged to take a “federalist” approach by training candidates and giving local groups tools to get out their message.

Ned Ryun said, “Nobody on the center-right  has gone after this in a systematic way of going out and finding school board members, city council, county commission, even state legislative.”

The Democratic National Committee declined to comment on the story. The Republican National Committee did not return a request for comment.