Florida Tea Party: Democratic Tool Or Legitimate Third Party?

The Florida Tea Party, the actual political party, not the movement, has been the subject of much debate over the last week. The controversy regarding the legitimacy or duplicity of the party and its candidates has been covered by many newspapers and popular political websites. The Buzz blog at the St. Petersburg Times reports on the controversy/conspiracy theory:

As election qualifying ended Friday, the dust settled with a dozen or more tea party candidates challenging state lawmakers in contested races.

Republicans see a conspiracy theory: a number of the tea party candidates are former Democrats, some appear financially strapped to pay the $1,800 filing and others are filing to run in districts far away from their listed address. A number of the seats are also targeted by Democrats for takeover.

“The recent flurry of last minute filings by so –called “tea party candidates” looks awfully suspicious,” said GOP Chairman John Thrasher in a statement. “While a few tea-party candidates across the state do have ties to the tea party movement, in the majority of instances, it appears that the Democrats have coordinated a dishonest attempt to hide phony candidates behind the name “tea party” and to confuse voters who may be supportive of the tea party movement, effectively stealing votes from true conservative candidates and injuring the grassroots tea party movement as a whole.”

(Sound familiar? Democrats sounded a similar alarm two years ago with the mysterious emergence of “Green Party” candidates. Read more here and here.)

A number of the tea party candidates we called referred us to Fred O’Neal, the head of the party. (Though remember there is a dispute about this, too.) O’Neal, a registered Democrat before becoming a tea party member, said the GOP theory is ridiculous. He said he is just following through on his promise to recruit challengers for Republican lawmakers who supported the SunRail project in the December special session.

Meanwhile, there is an additional third party connection too. The former Constitution Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida, Marshall DeRosa, quit that race in order to join the Tea Party and run locally.

Though the party said it did not systematically recruit candidates, TEA operatives did entice Marshall DeRosa, a Florida Atlantic University law professor, to run for the state Senate District 30 seat being vacated by Ted Deutch. DeRosa will face Democrat Maria Lorts Sachs and Republican Jeff Shapiro.

Debunking the notion that TEA candidates are Democrats in disguise, Guetzloe said the majority of the party hopefuls are former Republicans, with a few independents thrown in. DeRosa, a constitutional scholar, previously was considering a run for U.S. Senate on the Constitution Party ticket.

When DeRosa quit the race for U.S. Senate as a Constitution Party candidate, he was replaced by Bernie DeCastro.

5 thoughts on “Florida Tea Party: Democratic Tool Or Legitimate Third Party?

  1. Dale Sheldon-Hess

    Why not “both”? (I mean, the answer for questions like this is almost always both.) The question then is “in what proportion”.

    It’s ridiculous, I think, that minor parties are used as a weapon against the major party they are more-closely aligned with. Ridiculous… but also ridiculously effective. Candidates who have played these dirty tricks have seen that advertising dollars spent to support an opposing minor party have been TEN TIMES more effective for swinging the electoral outcome in their favor as dollars spent supporting themselves!

    And word is getting out. Expect more of this in the future.

    The solution is either a.) pass a law explicitly outlawing parties and campaigns to support other parties and campaigns (not sure how this would effect New York’s fusion voting…) or b.) use an electoral system where increasing support for a minor party DOESN’T necessarily decrease support for other closely-affiliated parties.

    The only voting systems that do that are approval voting and score voting.

  2. Irv

    > The only voting systems that do that are approval voting and score voting.

    Otherwise known as Instant Runoff Voting. This would eliminate the possibility of “spoiler” candidates. Candidates should not be allowed to win with under 50% of the vote. This is not an issue in places that have adopted IRV, like Australia, Ireland, London, San Francisco, Minneapolis, etc.

  3. ........ Calling for Rational Thot, [Lake]

    1 hr 59 mins ago
    Sara “Duh” Plainjane:

    “Following in others’ grand tradition of demonstrating gaps in knowledge while addressing a university, Sarah Palin told a crowd at a fundraiser at California State University in Stanislaus last weekend that Ronald Reagan, personal hero and inspiration, was a California college graduate ………..”

    ———- pass the blonde hair coloring: Ereka College of Illinois!

  4. Clay Shentrup


    IRV is not the same method as Score Voting or Approval Voting.

    IRV does not fix the spoiler problem. In the last mayoral election in Burlington, Vermont, the Republican was a spoiler. A bloc of voters who preferred the Republican over the Democrat over the Progressive could have gotten a better result (Dem instead of Prog) if they had insincerely top-ranked the Democrat.

    That is explained here.

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