Local TEA party draws about 100

Published 7:29 am Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cindy Stevens’ message is quite simple — if government spends less and taxes less, citizens will be better off.

That message permeated a Tuesday night meeting put on by the Mower County TEA Party, a conservative group organized by Stevens. Beyond being a nod to the Boston colonists who protested high British tea taxes, TEA also stands for “taxed enough already” — an idea that Stevens and others used as a springboard to lash out against Democratic leaders in all levels of government.

But Stevens said the issue isn’t necessarily about criticizing Democrats — they just happen to be the party in power locally right now, she said. Rather, Stevens said the goal should be to get any and all elected officials listening to concerns of conservatives like her and the other 100 or so people who gathered in the local senior center Tuesday.

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To hammer this point home, Stevens, who is a Republican, noted several empty chairs in the front of the senior center dining room — chairs she had labeled and saved for a number of local, state and federal officials.

The talking points TEA Party members wanted the officials to hear were pretty standard for what has become a national movement of anti-tax activists:

Government deficits are out of control and can only be controlled by reducing spending

Politicians currently in office need to either figure this out or get voted out

Ultimately, it’s up to citizens to practice wise fiscal habits as well

Though the crowd for these talking points was largely Republican, some Democrats did show up, including Joe Brown, the superintendent of Grand Meadow schools and husband of state Rep. Robin Brown, DFL-Albert Lea.

Brown said the concepts of reduced government spending and taxation are often associated with Republicans, but he said as a liberal Democrat, he too feels these are key goals.

However, he said he was worried with how these goals are being presented. The superintendent said Tuesday’s meeting denigrated into more of an attack on current politicians rather than a forum for new ideas, which he said is how the event was advertised and why he came.

In particular, he said showing the empty chairs was an unnecessary low blow, especially because state representatives, like his wife, and state senators have been tied up in St. Paul recently, grappling with how to pass a significant bonding bill that would fund a number of capital-improvement projects throughout the state.

“In all honesty, that was a cheap shot against our elected officials,” Brown said. “Both parties are out of control … There needs to be a serious discussion about what to do.”