By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
“I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies all right. But my damn friends, my goddamned friends ? they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor nights!”
? President Warren G. Harding (Republican)
The Greenwich Tea Party Patriots is the largest and best-organized tea party group in South Jersey. About 200 people attend its meetings in Elmer held on the first Tuesday of every month.
It is named after the small town of Greenwich (pronounced green-witch) near Bridgeton where local patriots destroyed a boatload of British tea in 1774.
In June of last year, the Greenwich tea party group attracted 2,000 people to a rally it held at the Salem County Fairgrounds. Its leaders called that event such a success that they held another one last Saturday, June 18. But only a few hundred people showed up. Local tea party leaders blamed “apathy.”
But the truth is that this year’s rally failed because last year’s rally achieved nothing.
You need political power to change what government does. The only way to get political power in a democracy is for people who share your views to win elections.? To win elections, some of those people must give up their time, money and privacy to be candidates. These candidates must then take the time to learn certain skills. Then they must assemble and lead a team of other citizens to help them raise money, distribute literature, and meet and persuade voters.
In most situations, candidates have to run in the June primary elections and win a major party nomination.
Last year, the tea party movement in South Jersey made no organized effort to encourage its members to be candidates for public office. It held no meetings, forums, debates, conventions or straw polls to let potential candidates test their skills, get exposure or measure which candidates were strongest.
When the April filing deadline came, two conservatives, Linda Biamonte of Atlantic County and Donna Ward of Gloucester County, each filed petitions to be candidates for Congress in the Republican primary against Frank LoBiondo. Each candidate appeared by herself, with no “line” or “ticket” of supporting tea party candidates for county and local offices.
While tea party groups around the country made history last year, no South Jersey tea party groups organized any activities to help either conservative candidate raise money or win votes ? even though they all opposed Frank LoBiondo’s votes for new laws to impose cap and trade, and to eliminate secret ballot elections before forcing employees to join unions.
Instead, these tea party groups spent their time and money organizing a “Let Freedom Ring” rally at the Salem County Fairgrounds 11 days after last year’s June primary election.
It was like members of a volunteer fire department being too busy planning a party at the firehouse to put out a fire burning down the building next door. Last year, that was understandable. Most tea party leaders were new and inexperienced in politics.
But a year has gone by, and there is no sign of a learning curve. This year not a single tea party group in South Jersey made any public effort to encourage, recruit, screen or train candidates for any public office.? Once again, no tea party candidates ran in the primary elections for any county office in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester or Salem counties.
Three candidates who claimed tea party support did run in the Republican primary for state Senate and Assembly in the 1st District (Cape May and Cumberland counties), now represented by Democrats Jeff Van Drew, Nelson Albano and Matt Milam.
One of them is state Senate candidate Tom Greto, who was convicted in 1994 of “deceitful business practices” in a real estate deal with his friends and business associates, and spent about two years in jail.
Greto didn’t share this information with his running mates or supporters until after the newspapers found out. In spite of this betrayal, Assembly candidate Peter Boyce still publicly supported Greto. Neither Boyce nor the other Assembly candidate, Paul Halley, made any effort to raise campaign funds, form an organization, or even put the words “tea party” on their campaign signs.
For a second year, none of the South Jersey tea party groups organized any support for these or any candidates. But they did spend lots of time and money to hold a second rally at the Salem Fair Grounds last Saturday, June 18 ? again, 11 days after the primary election.
(Reprinted from June 22, 2011 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/snt/news/index.php/politics/12641-tea-party-needs-to-act-like-one.html)
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 1400AM talk radio 3-4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and on 92.1FM 8-10 a.m. Saturdays. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.