Kentucky's Tea Party is a Force to be Reckoned With

Democratic Vice President Joe Biden faces Republican Congressman Paul Ryan in their only televised debate October 11 in the state of Kentucky.  While the debates will focus partly on foreign policy, Kentucky’s conservative Tea Party voters - who represent a growing number of politically active voters in the state - are more concerned about domestic issues, such as how to create jobs, curb federal spending, and shrink government.

Kentucky voter Eric Wilson is concerned about his children’s future.

Kentucky Facts

Population            4,369,356
White Residents        89%
Black Residents        8%
Asian Residents        1.2%
Residents of Hispanic or Latino Origin    3.2%
Unemployment Rate        8.5%
Median Household Income      $41,576        
Residents below poverty level    17.7%

Source: US Census, BLS
"I have to do now what is right, to give them the lifestyle that they need," Wilson said.

He is so passionate that he leads the Kentucky 9/12 Project, a loosely affiliated group of  voters who want to re-capture the predominant mood of Americans in the wake of the September 11th terror attacks.

"It’s the day after September 11th, when we weren’t red states or blue states, we were the United States," he explained.

Kentucky red

But despite the non-partisan mantra, Wilson’s home state of Kentucky is a so-called red state, which currently favors conservative Republican candidates for public office.  Groups like Wilson's are among the most conservative. Their popularity is partly a result of the growing strength of the Tea Party movement. They share the same values and concerns.

“I like the fact that the Tea party is kind of this nebulous thing that’s a little hard to define, but essentially when it comes down to it, smaller government, balanced budgets, less debt, a simpler tax code, and dismantling this political class," said Tea Party activist David Adams. Those were key points, he said, that helped elect Tea party favorite Rand Paul to the U.S. Senate.

Adams was Rand Paul’s campaign manager and says the Tea Party is a force to reckon with. "It has really shaken up the Republican Party in my view," he said.

Democrats

Democratic voter Liz Cook, who lives in Danville, Kentucky -- site of the vice presidential  debate -- is concerned about the rise of groups like 9/12. She also worries about the Tea Party's desire to slash government programs. 

"It’s a little scary because I view them as an extreme part of the Republican Party.  And I think that any extremist groups make it a challenge for other more moderate reasonable discussions to surface," she said.

Extremism

But 9/12 Director Eric Wilson says groups affiliated with the Tea Party are not extremist. 

“The Tea Party is really the sentiment of the people," he said. The sentiment of the people is still of frustration, still wanting their power, wanting their liberties back, still shouting at their TV, still shouting at their elected officials saying “hey, give me a voice.'”

It's no secret that Mitt Romney will most likely win Kentucky in November. Beyond that, Tea Party activists aim to elect candidates to Kentucky's legislature who will support the conservative agenda:  a rollback of abortion rights, support of the coal industry and cuts to medical care for the poor.  To achieve that, Republicans will have to control the state's House of Representatives, something that has eluded them for almost a century.

Kane Farabaugh

Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: John from: Colorado USA
October 11, 2012 8:19 PM
VOA is wrong stating the Tea Party is a force to be reckoned with. The tea party is just a splash in the pan the only thing they have done is divide the republican party. After this coming election when Obama is reelected and the democrats have a majority in both the house and senate the tea party will not exist.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
October 11, 2012 12:04 PM
Having to hear from somebody say something about the family and future of children is essentially gratifying. That means all hope is not lost. Thank God for little mercies. And it says also Americans can bear their children instead of condemn through abortion or kidnap them in condoms. Wonderful! I feel like an American. That piece about jobs creation and limiting of government spending is fantastic. Is there really someone out there to drive this? America may be restored after all. God bless America.

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