Grassroots tea party group urges students to vote

Alyssa DeGeorge

The Portage County Ohio tea party group provided Portage County citizens with the opportunity to learn about the grassroots movement and four of its endorsed candidates at a town hall meeting at the Rusty Nail Banquet Hall Tuesday night.

The 30 attendees were greeted by enthusiastic tea party members dressed in red, white and blue. The candidates walked the room of round tables to personally introduce themselves before Tom Zawistowski, executive director of the Portage County Ohio tea party, started the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Wearing a polo shirt with a large, waving American flag, Zawistowski stood in front of a “Totally Engaged Americans” sign to define the party’s goals for smaller government, lower taxes and less government interference in people’s lives.

“Let the private sector do as much as it can do and the government do what the private sector absolutely can’t do,” he said.

Frustration with the lack of action taken by government officials to solve the problems of the financial crisis and an overall loss of respect for today’s politicians are the major reasons Zawistowski said citizens should get involved with the tea party’s cause.

Nick Skeriotis explained to the group that he’s running for Ohio State Representative 75th District because he sees the American dream fading away. Skeriotis said, if elected, his goals are to regain the state’s rights and return government to the principles it was founded on: faith, family and freedom.

“People want to be able to live their dream,” Zawistowski said. “It’s all about economics. If you fix the fiscal issues, the social issues will fix themselves.”

Larry Solak, a candidate for County Commissioner, also expressed frustration with today’s government officials in his speech.

“The problem isn’t at the bottom of the government. It’s from the top to the bottom — all government,” Solak said. “We need involvement from the people. There’s a responsibility to freedom. Freedom isn’t free.”

Zawistowski explained that although the party started as a protest movement against high taxes, they’ve evolved from the slogan “Taxed Enough Already” to become more involved with the election process as “Totally Engaged Americans.”

The meeting focused on the impact grassroots efforts can have on the election. Zawistowski said the Portage County group is one of the larger, more active tea party groups in the state. He asked the group to vote absentee for the November election, so they will stop receiving campaign mailings that waste money and to take off work Nov. 6 to work at the polls or as a “freedom fighter” outside polling stations instead.

Students have more reason to be involved in the election than anyone because they’re the ones who are going to be affected the most in the future, Zawistowski said. Just spurring a conversation is a good place for young people to start.

“I think it’s really important that students talk to each other. It’s your responsibility to make your friends informed,” Zawistowski said.

Two students from the Kent State University College Republicans attended the tea party meeting to get the word out about what they’re doing on campus. Stephen Dawson, president of the group, said he has been pleasantly surprised by students’ enthusiasm for and knowledge of the election this year.

“You have to decide if you want to be part of the solution or to ignore the problem,” Dawson said.

Another one of the nine total town hall meetings will take place at 7 p.m. tonight at Suffield Town Hall.

Contact Alyssa DeGeorge at [email protected].