Portage County Tea Party pulls for conservatives at election night watch party


Coty Giannelli

Bill Anderson, of Brimfield, walks down a hallway at The Fairways at Twinlakes during a Tea Party sponsored watch party for the 2012 Presidential Election on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Photo Coty Giannelli.

Mike Crissman

Hopes were high Tuesday night among members of the Portage County Tea Party. Local supporters of the grassroots conservative movement gathered at the Twin Lakes Country Club in Kent for a watch party to monitor local, state and national election results.

Tom Zawistowski, executive director of the Portage County Tea Party, was confident throughout the night about Republicans’ chances. The tea party endorsed Governor Mitt Romney for president this election, Josh Mandel for senator and Jim Renacci, Dave Joyce and Marisha Agana for local congressional races.

“I really think this whole thing could cascade into an avalanche,” said Zawistowski, 58, who started up the Portage County movement three years ago. “I think Romney will win Portage County. I think he’ll win Ohio. And I think he’ll become the next president of the United States.”

Voter turnout in conservative-leaning places like Aurora, Ohio, saw greater turnout than in the last presidential election, he said, while turnout in Cuyahoga County inner-city areas was “very low.”

“Some of these people, who are as old as your grandparents, stood outside in the cold since 6:30 this morning until 7:30 at night to hand a piece of paper to citizens saying ‘these are the tea party’s endorsed candidates,’” Zawistowski said.

Zawistowski would be “very, very sad,” he said, if Romney didn’t win Tuesday night.

“Quite frankly, if President Obama wins reelection, the tea party will cease to exist,” Zawistowski said. According to the group leader, the IRS has interfered with his attempts to incorporate his organization over the past couple years. “This election’s about individual liberty and government control.”

More than 250 people attended the watch party Tuesday night. It was the Portage County Tea Party’s second-ever election watch party, the first of which was in 2010. The local group has almost 2,300 members throughout Portage County, one of the largest for the tea party in Ohio.

Portage County resident Joe Crawford, who identifies himself as an independent but joined the local tea party movement in 2009, said he’s concerned about the national debt and doesn’t like the way Obama has acted as president.

“He doesn’t act like he likes the United States,” Crawford said. “He apologizes for being an American, and he’s the exact wrong person we need as a leader.”

Tea party members support Libertarian views of small government and fiscal responsibility. Members advocate strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution and reduction of taxes, federal spending and the national debt.

The Portage County Tea Party endorsed a vote of “No” on Issues 1 and 2 in Ohio. Issue 1 would create a convention to revise, alter or amend the state constitution. Issue 2 would create a 12-person citizen commission to draw legislative and congressional district maps.

Lorren Barnett, another local man in opposition to the president, said he’d take drastic measures if Mitt Romney lost the election.

“If Obama wins, I’m moving to another country,” said Barnett Tuesday night. “I’ll move back in 2016. This is the most critical election in American history … I think Romney’s a man of real character. When you see Obama talk, he doesn’t speak with conviction.”

Contact Mike Crissman at [email protected].