What a weekend! It was an example of political wrangling at its best (and worst). In the end there were winners and there were losers, and I’m here to report what I saw first hand.
NOTE: I recently had a friend say that they appreciate my style of writing because I manage to cut through all the garbage and get to the basics. That is what I’ve attempted to do in this case. There will be those that think I’ve cut away too much, but I’ve only cut out those things that muddied the waters. If you don’t like what is left, I apologize . . . but . . . as always, it’s just my opinion.
A Tea Party was organized in Butler PA. The first sign of the event to “regular people” like you and I were signs that popped up in the Butler area advertising the date, time, and location. It was pointed out to me early on, however, that the simple street address that was included on those signs was actually the address for Kelly Chevrolet and Cadillac on Pittsburgh Road in Butler. It seemed fishy . . . it appeared to be a set up . . . it came across as an event ORGANIZED AND FUNDED by Mike Kelly in an effort to hijack the Tea Party movement.
On Friday evening (late) an email message was sent out by the people at the Clayton Grabb campaign. The message stated that “we the undersigned” have decided to boycott the event and hold our own event on the same day and at the same time as a form of protest against the original event (I paraphrased there, but the actual release can be read HERE).
On Saturday, a message was sent out in response by candidate Steve Fisher. Mr. Fisher made it very clear that he never approved the first letter and he did not approve of the boycott. He had every intention of attending both events, but his first priority was to the Tea Party as he had already given his word and commitment to them (again, I paraphrase, but you can read his release HERE).
I published everything. I then promised that I would attend both events in an effort to see for myself EXACTLY what was going on. I did what I said I would do, and now I’m here to summarize everything for all of you.
My husband and I made the hour long trip to Butler on Sunday morning. We arrived at the primary event location (Mike Kelly’s car dealership) at about 11am. We made a brief visit across the street for coffee, donuts, news papers, and a rest room brake before making our way to the Mike Kelly parking lot. I approached a group of event participants (who were all wearing “Freedom Patriots” t-shirts). I openly explained who I was and asked if they would be willing to talk to me about the event and the problems that had surfaced during the past few days. They were happy to do so, and I’ll report my findings below.
At about 1PM, my husband and I took a drive to the secondary event at Alameda Park. There were signs leading into the pavilion area. At that time only Clayton Grabb was on hand. I left my husband with a pad, pencil, and camera so that he could cover the start of the second event. I returned to the primary event location (the Kelly lot) with a camera-equipped Blackberry, a pen, and paper. The goal was to cover both events simultaneously, but I would leave the Tea Party (primary event) AS SOON as the presentations were completed. I would then head over to the second location to take part in that event also.
A plan was in place for full coverage of both events. My husband and I went in our separate directions with clear instructions.
An Overview of the Butler Tea Party event at Mike Kelly’s car dealership (and some background information)
This event was a real Tea Party. The organizers planned a great mix of speakers, presenters, and political analysts and politicians. They had booths representing various groups and charitable organizations, and they were focused on offering an informative program. The organizers admitted that this was their FIRST Tea Party, but they were excited to get involved in the process.
When the organizers first made their decision to have a Tea Party, they attempted to rent a park location. At first they were told that the fee would be $250 for the park rental. They explained that after the park found out that the event would be a Tea Party, the price changed to $1000 per hour for a total of $3000 plus insurance. They couldn’t afford a price anywhere close to $3000, and felt that they could not get a large enough venue to handle a crowd that could reach 2000. Mike Kelly stepped in and offered the use of his lot at no charge. The Freedom Patriots group jumped at the offer. Kelly provided a free (and very spacious) venue and he offered the use of his electrical service. The Freedom Patriots were left to organize the event, invite speakers and vendors, and they were also left with other responsibilities like acquiring portable rest rooms. A deal had been struck.
I estimate that between 250 and 400 people were in attendance, which was pretty good considering the day long threat of rain. It was absolutely a REAL TEA PARTY that was attended by REAL TEA PARTIERS. It was not an advertisement for Mike Kelly and it was NOT focused on the race for the 3rd Congressional District. It was a gathering of concerned citizens discussing issues of history and politics. It was proud patriots taking advantage of their freedom to assemble. It was supported by a handful of candidates that showed integrity by supporting the Tea Party movement. In exchanged they were each given five minutes to speak at the end of the event . . . in the wind and rain.
BELOW: A tent was provided for the speakers while they waited for an opportunity
to address the crowd. The three congressional candidates that attended
(Steve Fisher, Mike Kelly, and Martha Moore) sat together.
Congratulations to the Freedom Patriots for their success in their very first Tea Party! It was a difficult task, but you did a great job in pulling it all together. I give them credit for providing the hard work, time, and effort, and I congratulate them for keeping their heads held high even after attacks from naysayers and attempts to derail their event.
An Overview of the candidates that spoke at the Tea Party
The list of speakers (in presentation order) was as follows:
Darryl Metcalfe, candidate for Lt. Governor
Steve Fisher, candidate for 3rd Congressional District
Martha Moore, candidate for 3rd Congressional District
Mary Shaff, representative for the campaign for Jean Craig Pepper for Lt. Governor
Mike Kelly, candidate for 3rd Congressional District
Highlights from the speakers?
Daryl Metcalfe wants to create a “new type of Lt. Governor’s office” in that he wants it to become the “Accountability Office”. A great concept that I really liked.
In a particularly classy move, Steve Fisher thanked Mike Kelly for his involvement in the event and thanked him for the use of the Kelly property for the Tea Party. He then explained that the “Tea Party is not about us (the candidates) . . . it is about YOU (the concerned citizens that attend).” It was a comment that struck a chord with attendees, and it was something that sorely needed to be said.
Martha Moore made a point of explaining to the ladies in the crowd that the day “was a bad hair day” and apologized for her appearance which was a result of rain and wind. It made me laugh as I was experiencing the same “bad hair day” as Dr. Moore (but that is clearly why God invented hats). Dr. Moore continues to make me smile.
Jean Craig Pepper’s representative spoke briefly about Craig Pepper’s campaign and attempted to provide the same humorous flair as Craig Pepper herself. It was a brief but interesting presentation.
Mike Kelly closed the event by reminding everyone that attended that the event was supposed to be about the Tea Party. He stressed . . . “let the record show that on Sunday, May 2nd, 2010, a Tea Party was held in Butler Pennsylvania”. It was a brief speech, and he did not “show boat”. He kept his comments short and sweet because WE ALL were suffering from the wind and rain . . . his brevity was appreciated. It was yet another classy move that I witnessed on this day.
An Overview of the Candidate Forum at Alameda Park (and some background information)
At the conclusion of the closing statements by Mike Kelly (about 4pm), I headed for my car. Due to some limitations in parking spaces, I was blocked in. It took me about 5 twists and turns of my vehicle in an effort to “skootch” out of the parking spot, but I managed to exit the parking lot without doing any damage (whew). I quickly made the ~5 mile trip to the secondary location.
The Candidate Forum (the secondary event) was held in Odd Fellows Gazeob in Alameda Park. I tried to be careful not to “squeal tires” while serpentining the parking lot as the event was already well underway. Upon arrival I quickly parked and headed up into the pavilion. I took a seat beside my husband. I quietly asked him how things were going, and he responded “it’s been very heated”.
BELOW: Another photo of the mix and mingle session from inside the shelter.
According to my husband, the event began with a mix and mingle session. The presentation portion of the event began at about 3pm. I arrived at about 4:15pm and the “forum” portion of the event was still underway. There appeared to be less than 50 people in the pavilion, although it was apparent there were more attendees earlier (as demonstrated by gaps in the parking spaces in the lot). The format was very casual. The three candidates in attendance (Clayton Grabb, Ed Franz, and Paul Huber) stood at one end of the shelter and answered questions in rotation from attendees that were seated at picnic tables in the center of the shelter. There was no specific format for questions or answers. It was very relaxed and unrestricted. Unfortunately, the lack of structure also lead to lack of self-control from some attendees.
Of the <50 people in attendance, it is our estimation that 90+% were friends, family, and firm supporters of either Grabb, Franz, or Huber. The shelter was not filled with “undecided voters that were trying to learn about the candidates”. Instead it was our impression that the crowd was an assembly of very firm supporters of one of the candidates in attendance. The event, therefore, became a catalyst for unfriendly and (at times) unruly banter between attendees and candidates. It amounted to candidates and their respective camps arguing with one another.
That was the case until shortly after my arrival. A few minutes after I got to the event, Dr. Martha Moore’s car entered the parking lot. Dr. Moore, who also attended the primary event, made the trip to the secondary event. As she pulled into the parking lot the criticisms had already begun. As she approached the pavilion, candidate Ed Franz chose to throw some fuel on the fire by “joking” that they should now conclude the event (before Dr. Moore reached the shelter). Upon entry, Dr. Moore was offered the opportunity to speak and her arrival was met with booos and yelling.
I yelled from the back of the pavilion “come on now . . . give her a chance to speak”, but my words were ignored (as I was sort of considered the enemy at this point too). None of the original three candidates (Grabb, Franz, or Huber) stepped forward to stop the nonsense. They let it go.
The line of questioning to Dr. Moore was regarding her decision to attend the first event. They questioned her about the “fake Tea Party” and the “fake Tea Partiers”. At one point (out of frustration), Dr. Moore said “why don’t you ask Roberta . . . she was there”. I felt so bad for the beating that she was taking. It was unfair, but it was not MY place to step in to help her. The individuals who should have helped her stood silent.
At about 4:45, it was announced that time was almost up. It was suggested that the forum again break down into a mix and mingle session so that those in attendance could have the opportunity to talk with Dr. Moore. Again the crowd erupted and an attendee stood up and yelled “if she wanted to talk to us she could have been here before . . .but instead she went to the other event”. More yelling ensued.
I’ve been to a number of political events in the past two years. I can only compare the behavior in this event to ONE. It was a DEMOCRAT event in March of 2009 where a crowd of angry Democrats attempted to shout down a conservative candidate (who also happened to be a Democrat). I wrote briefly about that experience HERE. However, that event didn’t come any where near the hostility that could be felt in the Odd Fellows Gazebo on Sunday afternoon.
I’m sure there will be people that attended the event at Alameda Park that will complain about these comments and they’ll try to say how wonderful the event was. I suppose that if you are on the side that is “throwing stones”, you have a different perspective. I, on the other hand, have NEVER supported beating up on the little guy. It sickens me to see an innocent individual and candidate (like Dr. Martha Moore) verbally attacked while a group of three men (who are also candidates) stood by with their hands in their pockets and watched.
I challenge ANYONE to refute the fact that one of those men/candidates shouldn’t have stepped forward to say “please treat Dr. Moore with respect as she has taken the time to join us today, and we thank her for being here”. They did not, and I lost respect for each and every one of them at that moment. The truth is, they were all still “angry” with Dr. Moore and saw her as the enemy. Why? . . . Because she dared to attend a TEA PARTY.
The Butler Fiasco was caused by one problem compounding another
There were lots of fingers to be pointed if you want to “blame” someone for the problems that occurred on Sunday. The Freedom Patriots did not fully understand the political toes that were being stepped on, and Mike Kelly didn’t make a point of explaining that the choice to use his car lot might appear biased. Mike Kelly took advantage of the situation, and it was a brilliant move on his part. He was able to show that he was charitable and he managed to get his name tied to a potentially high-profile event. If Clayton Grabb, Paul Huber, or Ed Franz could have held an event for 400+ people in their back yards, they would have also jumped at the opportunity (and don’t EVEN try to tell me otherwise).
It was the responsibility of the Tea Party organizers to refuse Kelly’s offer, but they were not politically savvy enough to realize the mistake that they had made. They didn’t see the event as a “forum for the 3rd Congressional Candidates”. They were concerned with holding a Tea Party and they didn’t understand the complicated political undertones that were involved.
Unfortunately, the other candidates (Huber, Moore, and Franz led by Grabb) began a campaign against the TEA PARTY organizers. Rather than doing their homework and taking the time to discuss the problem with the Freedom Patriots, they took it upon themselves to be the judge and jury. They made a VERY BOLD MOVE and took a stand to boycott the Tea Party. Their biggest mistake, however, was in hastily drafting an “official notice” without first crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s. They authored a “we the undersigned” letter without realizing that that type of document is intended to be drafted as a group. Instead, the letter was drafted by a few without getting the sign off of the other candidates for which they were speaking. That is a HUGE error. PERIOD. They “signed” the names of candidates, but did so without their full and explicit written authorization. It was a bold move, but it was a mistake.
Lastly, intelligent people learn from history. So, I’d like to offer a reference to the Nixon years and Watergate . . . “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up”.
If you make a mistake, just stand up and say “crap, I made a huge mistake”. Don’t compound the original mistake by explaining . . . blaming other people . . . pointing fingers . . . and throwing more people under the bus. Just say “I made a mistake and I apologize for it”.
Winners and Losers?
In the end, there were winners. The biggest winners were the Freedom Patriots who pulled off an excellent Tea Party and I congratulate them. The other winners were Mike Kelly, Steve Fisher, and Dr. Martha Moore, who managed to demonstrate that the people are more important than the candidates. The Tea Party event was not about any of them, and they were happy to take a back seat to the “real” event.
The losers? You know what I’m going to say, and I won’t apologize for it.
The losers were Clayton Grabb, Ed Franz, and Paul Huber. They made the Tea Party event about politics rather than about people gathering to celebrate freedom. They tried to put their own candidacies above the ideals of the Tea Party movement. Most importantly, they made this about anger and fighting. When given the opportunity to stand up and try to calm the waters (by defending Dr. Moore, for instance) they chose to take a back seat and watch.
This was just one event, and it was simply one more opportunity for concerned citizens to compare the candidates that are competing for the Republican nomination for the 3rd Congressional Seat. There is still time for these individuals to stand up to right the wrongs, and there is still time for others to crash and burn. This one day (Sunday, May 2nd) will not decide the election, but it is just another opportunity to see how these candidates work under stress.
The Highlight? Paul Huber’s Boots!
Lastly, I’d like to make reference to my subtitle of this blog post. The header photo is a picture of Paul Huber’s cowboy boots. I’ve always seen Paul dressed like a business man, and I LOVED seeing him dress down a bit for an event. I laughed when I saw it because it was so darn “cool”, and I told him that it would be the headline. There were many witnesses to my promise, and I always keep my promises.
As always, just my opinion.
~Mercer County Conservatives