Thousands Drawn to Tea Party Convention in the Dells
WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. (AP) -- Republicans and conservative tea party members railed against health care reform, global warming legislation and government spending at a convention Saturday that attracted about 2,000 people.
The meeting, organized by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity and dubbed an unofficial tea party convention, brought together numerous Republican officeholders, party leaders and candidates in addition to national speakers like "Joe the Plumber" and Michael Reagan, the son of former President Ronald Reagan.
Speakers said they were defending America's freedoms by opposing cap-and-trade energy proposals, tax increases, health care reform and economic stimulus bills backed by Democrats.
"We are not the party of no," said Tim Nerenz, a Libertarian candidate for Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District, which covers Madison. "We are the party of hell, no. Do you want to give them your money? Hell, no! Do you want to give them your gun? Hell, no! Do you want to give them your health care?"
The crowd, picking up the chant, yelled, "Hell, no!"
Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist said seeing Republicans vote for tax increases was like finding a rat head in a soft drink can.
"They damage the brand for everyone else," he said.
The meeting came roughly a year after the first tea party rallies in the state and nationwide. Wisconsin tea party organizers say they have no interest in starting a third political party and instead want to work closely with Republicans.
Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus thanked convention attendees for giving GOP candidates a chance to rebuild the party.
"I know we've got a long way to go," he said.
No Democratic officeholders or candidates spoke at the meeting or had booths, while there were numerous Republicans. Republican state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., were among the speakers, while U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., appeared in a videotaped message.
A number of Republican candidates also were there, including candidate for governor Scott Walker, in addition to officially nonpartisan state Supreme Court justices Michael Gableman and David Prosser. Prosser, a former Republican state lawmaker, spoke out against changing the state's system for electing Supreme Court justices to having them appointed.
Americans for Prosperity national president Tim Phillips urged convention attendees to work together to oppose health care reform and what he called President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "radical agenda."
Liberal muckraker Scot Ross, who is director of the advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, dubbed the convention a "Republican Rally for Failure." Ross said the tea party movement is an anti-Obama effort that was designed to obstruct and ensure the failure of the president's agenda.
"This was never anything more than rallying Republican base members," Ross said.
Tea party followers are an independent force that kowtows to no political party or interest group, said Mark Block, president of Americans for Prosperity in Wisconsin.
Nancy Milholland, 47, an unemployed sales manager and organizer of the Racine County Tea Party, said tea party followers were frustrated conservatives.
"We are about smaller government, less spending, national security," she said. "If the Democratic Party decided that was their route, we would be for them."
On the Net:
Americans for Prosperity: www.fightbackwisconsin.com
Wisconsin tea party groups: http://www.wisconsingrandsonsofliberty.com/
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)