A number of local campaigns set up at the rally, including Republican congressional candidates Steve Southerland and David Scholl. Also present were independent congressional candidate Paul McKain and Republican activist Ann Yarko, who is running for the state House seat currently held by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee.
Some of the Tea Party attendees carried signs criticizing President Barack Obama, while some focused on U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd. There was a banner saying the nation missed Ronald Reagan, a few Sarah Palin 2012 T-shirts and even a sign advocating former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s possible presidential bid.
Based on the number of stickers and signs, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, currently running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat, is the most popular politician with Tea Party activists. There was also a large number of stickers for Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, who is running for state CFO.
Speaking to the rally, Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said that the Tea Parties were not about Democrats or Republicans. “It’s about being a conservative,” she said.
As McKain’s presence suggested, this was not a strictly partisan event. A number of Tea Party activists carried signs that called for throwing out every single incumbent. When incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, was introduced to the crowd, there was scattered applause but no widespread cheers or jeers.
Scholl, a retired Air Force officer, talked about his time at an event earlier with decorated veteran Col. Bud Day, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
“Service and sacrifice, that’s what this is all about,” said Scholl. “We’re not seeing that out of our servants in Washington.”
“I think it shows that people want an active voice in their government and are upset about what’s going on,” said Yarko. “We have to take a hard look at how much we’re interfering in people’s lives.”
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Video by Lane Wright: firstname.lastname@example.org, or (561) 247-1063