Jackson County Times

Top Story News

Thursday, February 4, 2010

250 Attend Tea Party Meeting

By Bo McMullian

Sharp differences between two conservative candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives District 2 seat were apparent Monday night at the monthly “Tea Party” meeting in Marianna.

The local group called the Concerned Patriots of Jackson County is holding the Tea Party meetings until the November elections. They are part of the nationwide grassroots movement against the government tax and spend policies of the Obama administration, the Pelosi leadership of the House and the Reid-led U.S. Senate--all liberal.

Right now they mostly want to get rid of Allen Boyd, the District 2 Democrat incumbent up for reelection this year.

Two candidates who want that job gave speeches at the meeting on Monday evening, and took questions from the crowd, which was estimated at 250 people. Both Steve Southerland, Republican, and Paul McKain, Whig, passionately made their cases to the polite, reverent and mostly older audience members. Concerned Patriot leader Elaine Thompson said state Sen. Al Lawson (D), also running against Boyd, was invited to participate but “wouldn’t return our phone calls.”

At first glance, Southerland and McKain, both staunch political conservatives, seem just alike. Both are against amnesty for illegal aliens, both are pro-gun rights and both see the U.S. Constitution as “etched in stone, not a living document,” as a questioner put it. But McKain is the maverick; he doesn’t think the Republicans can defeat Boyd and his lobbyist money. He made the peculiar decision to run as a Whig after being invited to do so by the Florida Whig Party. By any other name, Southerland says, it’s a third party and it will lose--and in the process, help reelect the incumbent.

“Scott Brown will win tomorrow in Massachusetts because there was not a third party,” Southerland predicted. “If we can’t take back the Republican Party, how are we going to take back our country?” Brown, a Republican, and Martha Coakley, a Democrat, fought a neck-and-neck battle for the traditionally Democrat Party seat held by the late Ted Kennedy.

“Yes, I will split the vote,” McKain said, “but I’m getting the Democrats too. I will win by attracting the votes of conservative Democrats as well as Republicans. That’s the only way to beat Boyd. The Republicans have lost this seat too many times.”

McKain is the more radical of the two; Southerland prefers a more traditional diplomatic and political approach to fix the country which both believe is in very bad shape. In response to a question from the audience: “What can we do to get the federal government out of the education of our children?,” McKain said he would abolish the U.S. Department of Education and save $65 million yearly.

Southerland admitted that the best teachers are parents and said the states and counties should have more say in education but he stopped short of recommending any drastic measures. “We should always give careful thought to our ways,” he said. “Hurry is not of the devil, it is the devil.”

Another questioner put it bluntly: “Would you withdraw from the UN?” Southerland responded by quoting a line from The Godfather: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” He said he abhors the actions of most UN members but likes “watching them and seeing where they are, like in Copenhagen” (for the recent climate change conference). McKain said the U.S. should pull out of the UN completely. “And I could care less what the UN thinks of us,” he said.

McKain’s strategy of attracting conservative Democrats may be evident in his response to a question on abortion. While Southerland started quoting the Bible and saying life begins at conception--a hard pro-life stand, McKain’s response was more nuanced. “I think abortion is a states-rights issue.” That stand is at least a little more concessionary to pro-choice Democrats, politically speaking.

Southerland is the scion of the Panama City Southerlands who have been in the funeral business for generations. He said he was “infuriated” that People’s First Bank was taken over by the government. People’s First originated in Bay County with the Chapman family. “If they had helped People’s First like they helped the people that took it over,” he said, “People’s First would still be there.” That was part of his opening speech which he began with “Have you had enough!?” The crowd cheered “Yes!” in response.

McKain, 58, retired in 2003 after 23 years as an EMT/firefighter with the city of Sunrise, Fla. He went into teaching before that after graduating from Florida International University. He is originally from West Virginia. He was a lifelong Republican, he said, but became disillusioned by Sen. John McCain and the 2008 presidential race and the negative reaction by less-conservative Republicans to Sarah Palin. He joined the Whigs last year after they noticed his web site and contacted him, he explained to the TIMES. Paul Truesdale heads the Florida Whig Party which is currently fielding six congressional candidates.

Also running for the District 2 House seat are Carl Meece (R), and Eddie Hendry (R). That makes it three Republicans verses one Whig verses Boyd and Lawson, Democrats.

With 250 persons showing up for monthly meetings, Concerned Patriots can take a lot of credit for educating the electorate. But don’t worry, they’re not bashful about their clout. “Hello and welcome to our first meeting of 2010,” Mrs. Thompson began Monday night, “the year that will set the course for politics in the United States.” A pastor opened in prayer and Miss Audrey Kandz of Cottondale High School sang the national anthem. The meeting started at 6 p.m. at the Farm Center on U.S. 90 West and the last folks went home after 9 p.m.

The TIMES caught a few on their way out and asked them why they came. Dick Hermann, 67, of Marianna, said “I’m concerned about this country. I’ve got grandchildren, eight of them.”

Tonnie Wright, 72, of Marianna, said he came to show support for the Republicans and his opposition to the party in office--”Boyd and the rest of them in Washington.” John McKinnie, 60, of Grand Ridge, said he supports the Tea Party movement on most “general issues.” Sue Crooms of Marianna said, “I want to be informed and keep up with the elections. I’m a conservative who votes my conscience.” She said she is not a Republican.

Next months’ CAP-Tea Party meeting will feature Rep. Marti Coley, a Republican representing this area in the Florida House, and her opponent, Democrat David Pleat, Thompson said.

No comments:

Post a Comment