The Roanoke Tea Party, perhaps one of the more activist groups of its kind in Virginia, believes in the familiar goals of limited government groups: low taxes, reduce spending, smaller government, and states rights. Under RTP President Chip Tarbutton, the group has grown to 300 members.
Briefly associated with the Virginia Tea Party Federation, they soon chafed under the demands and limitations of group-think and returned to their independent status while keeping an eye on elected officials in and around the Star City. Not shy about airing their differences with former tea party federation chair Jamie Radtke, the RTP accused Radtke of using the tea party to help launch her U.S. Senate race. In his newsletter and in a Roanoke Times article, Tarbutton was quoted as saying that Radtke had built "a Tea Party entity specifically as a platform to run for office, and we were flabbergasted by the ferocity she used in squashing internal dissent." Members may have been miffed but not enough to sway them because she still received their support over other senate candidates.
Members started their own radio program. They rallied at local government offices. Their newsletter kept members and others informed of all the activities.
They traveled to Richmond to rally during General Assembly sessions, getting behind and supporting a bill advocating that any state budget bill be posted online for 72 hours before taking a vote. When the bill was killed by the Senate Rules Committee, the Roanoke Tea Party members turned their attention to Democratic State Senator John Edwards, 67, who had voted against it. As they stood with signs, protesting outside his Roanoke office and vowing to find someone to run against the four-term legislator, they were determined to replace him.
A graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, former Marine captain, and graduate of Princeton University's Union Theological Seminary, Edwards was not cowered by the tea party. Hearing of their vow to find someone to run against him, he told the Roanoke Times, "Fine. Who are they going to get to run?"
Admitting it would be difficult to find someone satisfactory to the tea party, Tarbutton set out to search for a candidate for the 21st State Senate seat. He was successful. In an email sent Wednesday, he announced that a candidate had been found and would be introduced on Thursday, writing, "A first rate challenger has come forward, and will announce his candidacy at the June 2 meeting of The Roanoke Tea Party. We follow through on our commitments!"
Tarbutton invited media and others to attend the 6:30 meeting at the Ramada Inn River's Edge. John Edwards himself will probably be among those waiting to see who has decided to step forward and run as the tea party candidate in what many consider a decidedly-Democratic district.
Update: A candidate was introduced by the Roanoke Tea Party.
Cross-posted at Bearing Drift