60 in attendance at meeting 4 of 9 for Tea Party

Jinae West

About 60 people attended the Portage County Tea Party meeting for Franklin Township last night at Water Street Church.

This is the fourth meeting in a series of nine, as part of the group’s township outreach program. The last meeting was held at the James A. Garfield Middle School in Garrettsville.

Tom Zawistowski, executive director of the county Tea Party, said the meeting serves as an education to new and existing members about the movement’s history and plans of action and how to get involved.

“In fact, one of our members just said, ‘This is like Tea Party 101,'” Zawistowski said.

According to its website, the Portage County Tea Party is dedicated to the active political participation of citizens on the local, state and national levels. Its members support leadership that follows a literal interpretation of state and federal constitutions and fiscally responsible government.

Zawistowski, 55, asked the people in attendance, most over the age of 50, their political affiliations. Many raised their hands to say they were Republicans. A handful were Democrats and one was a Libertarian.

During a rundown of the Tea Party’s history, Zawistowski said, contrary to popular belief, the base of the movement began during George W. Bush’s presidency, specifically in November 2006 when “there was no one to vote for on the ballot,” a point he revisited throughout the night.

He encouraged people to have a voice at city council meetings and volunteer to go door-to-door with fliers that support Tea Party-recommended candidates this election season.

“We are the true patriots,” he said, citing those who fought in the American Revolution. “They were fighting for their freedom in the town where they live, on their land. This is ours.

“We are the true patriots,” Zawistowski repeated.

Louanne Jenkins, a tea party supporter, said she came to the meeting because it reflects what she believes.

“The Tea Party is based on honesty, and that’s refreshing in this day and age,” she said.

Jenkins, 57, said she went to Washington, D.C., last weekend for Glenn Beck’s rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Zawistowski also traveled to the nation’s capital to hear the Fox News broadcaster speak and scoffed at the media’s flippant coverage of the event.

Jack Skinner, 53, said this was his first time at the meeting because he wants to understand what the movement is about. He said he was surprised at how many people showed and, though he didn’t sign up for any volunteer opportunities with the Tea Party, said he’ll give it some thought.

“People don’t act unless they’re influenced,” Skinner said, “and I think that’s what the Tea Party is becoming — a huge influence to those who are in office now.”

The next outreach meeting will be held for Brimfield and Suffield at 7 p.m. Sept. 2 at Suffield Elementary School.

Contact Jinae West at [email protected] for more information.