New Beginnings in Palm Beach County
“Second star on the right, straight on ’til morning…”
– Peter Pan, 1953, also Captain James T. Kirk
With these words, Peter Pan gives the directions to Neverland, and the Enterprise moves on to its next adventure at the end of “The Wrath of Khan”.
What do a children’s story and a science fiction movie have in common with the Palm Beach County Tea Party? All are heading off to try something new.
The last two years have seen remarkable growth and maturity for a movement that didn’t exist at the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency. Sparked by the “Santelli Rant”, groups spontaneously appeared around the country, getting their start here with the 2009 “Tax Day Tea Party” at the county building in West Palm Beach that surprised even the organizers with its 3000+ turnout. Marco Rubio debuted here, and Allen West became a favorite of the movement.
Since that time other groups have sprung up such as South Florida 912 (Principles not Parties), DC Works for Us, the Fort Lauderdale Tea Party (longest running weekly rally) and others, forming a loose knit movement with many overlapping parts. Because we are grassroots it is hard to count, but we estimate that approximately 150 like-minded groups have sprouted in Florida since April 2009 – some very small and some quite large. The tea party movement is growing at a rapid rate! Many activists belong to multiple groups, and major events like the 9/12 marches on Washington, or subsequent Tax Day rallies have brought together large crowds which included members of most of the independent groups.
As a movement, we have had significant victories on the local level, including the elections of Allen West and the pickup of FS27 for conservative candidate Lizbeth Benacquisto. Other candidates supported by the movement – Sherry Lee, Tami Donnally, Steve Rosenblum, and some primary candidates lost – but the ground game run by those associated with tea party groups made the races much closer than they would otherwise have been. There has also been cooperation through ad-hoc coalitions like the Taxpayer Action Board (TAB) and the drive for an independent Inspector General for the county.
Cooperation between the tea party groups has not always been perfect though. While there was collaboration on candidate events, protests and rallies, the sharing of tools, resources, mailing lists, etc. was limited. Most would agree that more collaboration and cooperation is needed.
Some current leaders of the South Florida Tea Party have decided to try something a little different. Pam Wohlschlegel, who was the Palm Beach County Executive Director, along with the leaders of the North and Central Palm Beach County Groups, Anita Carbone and Gina Rascati, and a handful of folks who helped them build the north county organization, decided to break off and start a group with a slightly different agenda and method of operation.
This group, although still adopting the core beliefs in Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets, will concentrate on using collaborative efforts in achieving the goal of better government at all levels.
Action and results will be the focus of the Palm Beach County Tea Party. While meetings will be open to all, the objective is to attract, educate, motivate and mobilize enthusiastic activists who can drive change in their communities. The group will build teams to work at all levels of government, local, state, and federal. At the local level, they will learn the issues confronting local government and advocate for tea party positions at county and municipal meetings. The group will identify and promote candidates for office and organize teams to work with the campaigns of existing candidates. The teams will champion those who share our beliefs, irrespective of party.
As the Palm Beach County Tea Party organization gathers momentum, it plans to reach out to the other grass roots leaders in South Florida and across the state, identify projects that they have in common, and work together to meet our mutual objectives in 2011, 2012, and beyond. Foremost, the PBCTP will study key Florida issues and keep voters informed.
At the national level, the Palm Beach County Tea Party will work as a partner with Tea Party Patriots and other groups with national reputation, sharing ideas, participating in training and national projects, and supporting the core beliefs throughout government.
The first meeting of the new group will be at the Abacoa Golf Club, on Monday August 1, 2011.