Organizers behind the mysterious Michigan Tea Party won’t see their party make the ballot in Michigan this fall unless a judge says it’s OK.
Tea party movement supporters in Michigan have called the mysterious Tea Party — which hopes to field 23 candidates this fall — a sham organization set up by Democrats with the hopes of splitting the Republican vote. (The state Democratic Party has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Tea Party since allegations were first raised, but some Democrats have confessed to being involved in creating the Party and recruiting candidates.)
Real tea partiers vowed to challenge the Tea Party as it endeavored to make its way onto the ballot. Yesterday, they made good on their promise, packing a state canvassing board hearing that was reviewing the close to 60,000 signatures the Tea Party turned in earlier this year as part of the balloting process. Tea party activists from around Michigan implored the board not to let the Tea Party join the ballot and, they said, taint their movement’s name.
“None of you would help your child cheat on an exam, and I’m sure none of you would let your family and friends participate in a Ponzi scheme,” activist Dianne Ruhlandt told the board, according to NPR. “Doing the right thing in the political world should not be any different than doing the the right thing in our homes and at work.”
In the end, the board split along partisan lines — with its two Democratic members voting in favor of allowing the Tea Party on the ballot, and the two Republicans voting against it. The deadlock is something of a victory for opponents of the Party because it means that, barring a judge’s ruling, the Party will not appear on ballots this fall.
Republican board member Norm Shinkle told the Detroit News it seemed to him that the Tea Party was a fake.
“It’s not a tea party group,” he told the paper. “Almost everyone runs their petitions past the secretary of state to make sure it’s correct, their T’s are crossed their I’s are dotted. These guys elected not to do that because they wanted to keep a stealth effort.”
The vote came on the heels of more evidence that Democrats were among the contentious Tea Party’s organizers. Over the weekend, Oakland County Democratic Party operations director Jason Bauer was forced to resign after allegations surfaced that he’d notarized campaign filings from a phony Tea Partier.
The Oakland County Clerk, Ruth Johnson — a Republican who happens to be running for Secretary of State — appears interested in turning Bauer’s resignation into a political issue. She’s called on the county sheriff’s office and the FBI to look into the possibility of a criminal probe.
Meanwhile, Tea Party organizers vow to fight on. They say they’ll take their case all the way to the state Supreme Court in their attempt to get their candidates on the ballot this fall. They remain adamant that their party is not a sham.
“I fully expect to be in court,” the attorney for the Michigan Tea Party told the AP.
In order to make the trip overseas and back in time for the November election, Michigan ballots must be printed up by Sept. 10, according to reports. That means that unless the Tea Party can convince a judge to put its candidates on the ballot by before that date, voters in the state are unlikely to see any Tea Party candidates on the list when they step in the voting booth.