In Lovelandâ€™s North Lake Park Saturday, hopes were high and moods were bright as close to 100 people came to support candidates, like gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo and state senatorial candidate Kevin Lundberg, and bask in the excitement of the upcoming Nov. 2 elections.
The group gathered around a small shelter for a somewhat impromptu â€œFreedom Rally,â€ sponsored by Sen. Lundberg, an incumbent, in support of candidates who are running on platforms that promote freedom from unnecessary government regulation.
General sentiment reflected the feeling that, come Wednesday, several Democratic seats around Colorado would be filled by a fresh batch of Republicans who better represent that platform.
â€œExciting is kind of an understatement,â€ said Judy Scheuerman, an attendee from Windsor. â€œIâ€™m having a ball.â€
Candidates who were long shots three months ago are now serious contenders in the election polls â€“â€“ an accomplishment candidates attribute partially to Coloradoâ€™s Tea Party movement.
The Freedom Rally had no official ties to the Tea Party, but several of those in attendance had Tea Party sentiments, including Lundberg himself. He said the movement has taken hold of him and others, noting that people have become â€œfired up,â€ â€œconcernedâ€ and â€œengagedâ€ over the decisions Democrats have made since gaining control of the House of Representatives and Senate.
â€œThe Tea Party movement is not a political party,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s political principles. Itâ€™s a real focus on limited government and life and liberty.â€
The movement is intentionally grassroots-based, according to Lundberg, and has spread throughout Colorado since 2008.
The movement officially hit Northern Colorado one year later when Tea Party sympathizers created Northern Colorado Tea Party, an organization that supports the â€œUnited States Constitution, smaller government and protecting Americaâ€™s freedom,â€ according to the groupâ€™s website.
Lesley Hollywood, one of the organizationâ€™s creators, said the group is still growing and that this election cycle was â€œpracticeâ€ for later election cycles. She said she was motivated to bring the movement to Northern Colorado after attending a Tax Day rally in 2009. The group has since grown from one person to more than 2,000.
â€œThere have been a lot of friendships and relationships that have developed out of this,â€ she said.
The group, however, has experienced disorganization and clashes in opinions as the organization has tried to find common ground. Even early on, another one of the partyâ€™s founders, Ray Harvey, clashed with the Tea Partyâ€™s message.
â€œThe Tea Party now is not the Tea Party it used to be,â€ said Harvey, who also works as a bartender and novelist. â€œTheyâ€™re way too religious.â€
Harvey said he fought â€œtooth and nailâ€ against those who brought up the question of prayer during meetings. He put some of the blame on Glenn Beck, who he said added the religious aspect to the movement, putting Tea Partiers who believe in the separation of church and state in an uncomfortable position.
â€œItâ€™s contrary to the constitutional principles,â€ he said.
Hollywood said she tries not to touch the social issues, saying they can be very polarizing within the movement.
In the movementâ€™s beginning she said those people held a lot of sway within the group, but they have since left after the rest of the organization stopped perpetuating their issues.
She said, however, that since the movement operates on such a grassroots level, a diverse range of views should be expected.
â€œA lot of them love Sarah Palin. A lot of them hate Sarah Palin,â€ Hollywood said. â€œA lot of them love Glenn Beck. A lot of them hate Glenn Beck.â€
Those who have supported social issues perpetuated by Beck and other Tea Party leaders have generally joined 9/12 groups around the country. According to the Loveland 9/12 Projectâ€™s website, the group is designed to â€œbring us all back to the place we were on Sept. 12, 2001.â€
The movement began with a speech Beck gave in March of 2009, when he called for Americans to return to a time when they â€œwere not obsessed with Red States, Blue States or political parties.â€
Several Tea Party members have also rejected the movementâ€™s depiction as being primarily Republican, although some of the values of both can intersect.
Many, like Lundberg, see the movement as a catalyst to elect candidates who take power out of the hands of government and give it back to the people â€“â€“ especially in terms of health care. Others, like Hollywood, see Tea Partiers as watchdogs for the people.
Either way, several Tea Party members will vote Republican come Tuesday. Even Harvey, who said he sees the â€œleft and the right as two sides of the same penny,â€ said he will likely choose the right simply to check the actions of the left.
â€œI believe that the left is so dangerous right now, and so much damage has been done, the only practical way to at least put some sort of halt on it is to put some balance on the right,â€ he said.
News Editor David Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.