Who is the Tea Party in Oklahoma?

Wednesday, May 12th 2010, 3:59 pm
By: News 9

By Amy Lester, The Oklahoma Impact Team

OKLAHOMA CITY -- They're frustrated, they're protesting and they're part of the Tea Party movement in Oklahoma.

"The federal government has vastly, vastly overstepped its boundaries," said Greg Ingle, Tea Party participant.

"Our founding fathers envisioned a country that had a federal government that was strong but, it was held in check by the states. We've lost that completely," said Al Gerhart, founder of the Sooner Tea Party.

There are around 50 Tea Party organizations in Oklahoma with thousands of members.

"It's the culmination of the American people's disgust, disgust with the process," said Mike Gossett, Tea Party participant.

Tea Party participants want lower taxes, limited government and states' rights. Many call themselves constitutional conservatives.

"I really think our founding fathers would roll over in their graves if they saw what the federal government has become," said Joseph Miner, Tea Party participant.

According to a new poll, 13 percent of American voters said they're part of the Tea Party. A majority of them are women.

Dee Dobson is one of them. 

"If you're standing next to me, you're talking about what's going on in this country," said Dobson, Tea Party participant.

Dobson is a stay-at-home mom who runs a conservative T-shirt business.

"If we are out there educating and we're active and we look at the politicians that are running for office and we find out what they're about and we check their votes, then we should be able to make some good decisions," Dobson said.

Dobson wants more conservative people in office. It's a desire other women in the movement share with her.

"I want a Conservative, conservative values. I want to get that back in our country," said Angela Benner, Tea Party participant.

Many Oklahomans agree. According to a survey done by SoonerPoll, nearly 43 percent of Oklahomans have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party.

"I don't think that your average Republican or your average Conservative necessarily looks at the Tea Party and says I'm ready to make a sign and go out and join them, but, I think they sympathize with them," said Bill Shapard, SoonerPoll CEO.

Shapard said he expects the Tea Party to impact elections here, but, he's not sure how much. Shapard said he believes the movement will convince Republicans and Conservatives to get out the vote. However, Shapard said he does not expect the Tea Party to become a true third political party in Oklahoma.

"There is so much overlap of the Tea Party movement with Conservatives who in this state are probably Republican. I just don't see them ever saying,'Oh, I'm going to totally give up that Oklahoma Republican brand and go Tea Party,'" Shapard said.

People in the Tea Party movement who the Oklahoma Impact Team talked to said they're not interested in creating a third party. They said they fear that would cause Conservative candidates they support to lose.

"If we have a Tea Party candidate who we believe is more Conservative than a Republican candidate, then are we going to split the Republican vote with the Tea Party vote and elect another Democrat? Not for sure that's the way to go," said Joseph Miner, Tea Party participant.

Political party or not, many politicians realize the importance of courting the Tea Party vote.

"It is inspirational to me when I find this many people gathered in one place that believe like I believe," said Gubernatorial candidate Randy Brogdon.

Brogdon is part of the movement. He said he attends rallies trying to win votes.

"When the Tea Party people understand who I am and what I believe in, they're going to rally around this cause and help get me elected as Governor," Brogdon said.

Brogdon's not the only one watching the Tea Party. The Oklahoma Republican Party said their candidates are listening to the Tea Party and are trying to address their concerns. They consider the Tea Party to be the swing vote.