Local Tea Party reboots

With the presidential election year on the horizon, the various political teams are starting to regroup, huddle up and yell “break” as they send their members out to play in the big game.

While the two major parties are still considered the “all stars”, they have had to acknowledge, and even work with, the fairly new kids on the block: tea party activists. This is the underdog team that can’t afford the clean, fancy uniforms or expensive equipment, but its players are not going away until everyone knows they are a force to be reckoned with.

That was the message Monday night, as the Boca Raton chapter of a newly re-formed tea party hosted about 125 guests and Senate hopeful, Col. Mike McCalister. President of the organization, Pam Wohlschlegel headed up the 19-member crew who founded the new group by splitting away from the popular South Florida Tea Party and its controversial leader, Everett Wilkinson, in June.

“We wanted to go in a different direction,” Wohlschlegel said of the split. “We want to focus more on Palm Beach County.”

She was careful not to bash Wilkinson, but mentioned that the new group will collaborate with other local and state grassroots leaders, a goal that was not accomplished under Wilkinson’s unilateral decision-making style.

The new organization will be a nonprofit 501(c)4. It will be divided into town chapters, but governed as a whole by a seven-member board. Wohlschlegel added that the group “will not endorse any candidates, ever.”

McCalister, the guest speaker for Monday’s dinner, seems to have a slight edge among tea party and grassroots groups statewide, and is so far polling very well. His speech, which was filled with military references, touched on the need to reform public education, improve treaties and trade agreements and address immigration, tort reform, job creation and a wide variety of other issues facing our country. With the exception of one prickly question about whether or not he actually served in combat while in the military , the crowd was very receptive to the confident candidate.

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