Yesterday was Tax Day, now the venue for an annual tea party protest in Boise and elsewhere, for the second year running.
While we noted in January that the fire and brimstone was gone from the tea partiers, at least locally, others have noted the same of yesterday's events, including Tea Party Boise events lead Russ Smerz, who told citydesk the march and rally this year was much more organized and structured this year, if somewhat less well-attended.
Smerz accepted a crowd estimate of about 2,000, a visibly smaller crowd than last year. He also agreed that describing the rally as "anti-Obama" was a fair characterization:
"I think if there was a focal point it was anti-socialism, and really tying Obama into that as well," Smerz said.
Prior to the march, a national group that hitched its wagon to the tea party train—The Tea Party Express—released a list of congressional targets and heroes. Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick made the list of tea party heroes, an announcement met with surprise (then incredulity, mockery and incomprehension) from multiple corners, starting with the Minnick campaign itself.
"Um, sure," Minnick spokesman John Foster replied when the a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/15/walt-minnick-tea-party-en_n_538837.html">Huffington Post asked if the campaign was accepting the Tea Party's backing. "Walt is not in the habit of turning down support," Foster continued.
Minnick accepted the endorsement, appearing on CNN Friday morning to describe the tea partiers as “just ordinary folks that think the government ought to balance it’s budget.”
"You’ve got some fringe within the group, that’s for sure," Foster acknowledged to citydesk this afternoon.
"You’ve got to base your views on people based on your interactions with them"
Foster said Minnick has some rapport with local tea party activists. He also said he spoke with a representative of the Tea Party Express today who told him they'd looked at all the Blue Dog Democrats and decided that Minnick was the only one worth endorsing, particularly for his anti-earmark stance.
“It’s for the most part a group of people who are frustrated by spending in Washington,” Foster characterized the tea partiers.
That's not exactly how Smerz, who said he resents the "government takeover of everything," (not to mention the "socialist" bomb above) characterizes it.
“They just seem to have their hands on everything and I don’t think it’s necessary, we should do it ourselves,” Smerz told citydesk.
Moreover, the national Tea Party Express, which is run by establishment GOP operatives, never asked the local tea partiers their opinion on Minnick.
"We at Tea Party Boise were not consulted or given the opp for giving our input to Tea Party Express," Smerz said. The local "party" has not endorsed any candidates, though they will publish candidate surveys on April 24. Smerz was listed as an Ada County campaign chair for GOP candidate Vaughn Ward, who is running in the May 25 primary for a chance to challenge Minnick.
He said he dropped his affiliation with the campaign when he took on more Tea Party responsibilities.
Ward said he's running for the tea party vote too.
“I think that any candidate in Idaho would be foolish not to look at them as a strong voting block,” Ward told citydesk.
Ward said he shares many tea party stances including limited government, accountability and the fact the "the Constitution does matter."
Raul Labrador, a state legislator who is also running in the GOP primary for the First Congressional District, had not returned our calls by press time (the time we press the button to publish the blog). Candidate Harley Brown, who stopped by BW last week, had just come from a meeting with local tea partiers who he described as "my kind of guys."
Here's some photos of Minnick's ordinary folks, as they marched up Capitol yesterday.
By Nathaniel Hoffman