From individuals dressed in Revolutionary War costumes to Gadsen flags, the “Drain the Swamp” rally at the state Capitol on Saturday had all the ingredients for a successful Tea Party.
Unlike other Tea Parties, which are usually held on a day in April when taxes are due, this event was focused on throwing out Democratic incumbents on Nov. 2.
The goal of the rally was “to take the message to our communities that this election is critical to the survival of our Republic and to culminate in a spectacular victory on Nov. 2,” Bob MacGuffie of Right Principles told the crowd of about 300. “Yes, my fellow patriots the case against a socialist agenda endlessly pursued by the liberals is clear and compelling.”
Headlining the event was Martha Dean, the Republican running for attorney general, who was described as “our hero in this movement.”
But part of the way through her remarks Dean attempted to back away from that label.
“You will hear the media call me an extreme right wing candidate,” Dean said. “But let me just say these are not Republican or Democrat values, these are mainstream American values and they have not been heard from in a longtime in this country.”
“This election is not about right or left. This election is truly about right or wrong,” she said, repeating a familiar campaign slogan. She went on to give the crowd some advice on how to talk to their neighbors and friends about which candidates they should be voting for this November.
“Do not assume people who don’t agree with you are stupid. Do not assume people who don’t agree with you have ill will – they do not. Do not assume Connecticut is a blue state, it is not,” Dean said to a raucous round of applause. “It’s not about party, it’s about putting good people in office.”
Republican U.S. Senate nominee Linda McMahon followed Dean at the podium.
“We gotta freeze government hiring. We’ve got to freeze government wage increases, we’ve got to rip back our discretionary non-defense spending to where it was at least in 2008 before we kinda fell off a cliff,” McMahon said. “Ladies and gentlemen if we continue the trend that we are on today in 10 years, every dollar of income tax revenue, half of that or fifty cents will go to pay debt service.”
McMahon promised not to vote for any tax increases if elected.
McMahon, who didn’t start out as the darling of the Tea Party movement, has made some headway with the loosely affiliated group. She said she’s met with at least two Tea Party groups and shares a lot of common ground with them on issues of balancing the budget and fiscal responsibility. That didn’t prevent at least one member of the crowd from shouting, “Rob! Rob! Rob!” as McMahon was being introduced. This was in reference to the candidacy of former Congressman Rob Simmons, who McMahon defeated in the August primary. Simmons supporters have been slow to back McMahon. Before the primary, Weston money manager Peter Schiff was the candidate preferred by the Tea Party movement. Schiff, an economic pundit who owns EuroPacific Capital, predicted the recession and advocates free market principals.
“ The candidate that I’m going to introduce to you today is someone I’ve gotten to know lately and someone I’ve come to trust,” Tom Scott, a former lawmaker and prominent opponent of the income tax, said as he introduced McMahon.
A former lawmaker and candidate for state Senate, Joe Markley, said the “comfort level with Linda has increased steadily.”
He said once you get to know McMahon you begin to realize “she shares a lot of our values.”
“The thing that holds the Tea Party together is dedication to the constitution and to limited government,“ Markley said. “To real fiscal responsibilities, not just lip service, but saying we’ve gotta cut spending, we can’t raise taxes and a commitment to personal liberty and to economic freedom and I think she’s solid on those things.”
“I’ve seen the way she’s run this campaign and I’ve been very impressed,” Markley said. “I’ve seen enough of what I needed to see from her to feel that she’s a far superior choice for the state.“
Most of the candidates that spoke Saturday are running as Republicans.
Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy said the Tea Party has been a “Godsend” because it has “put the energy back in a lot of our message and a lot of what we’re trying to do.”
“It’s been a nice meddling their energy and our ability to recruit really good solid principle-based candidates,” Healy said.
There are 131 Republican candidates running for the state House of Representatives, a full complement of candidates running for state Senate, and five Congressional candidates and “I believe they’re all quality candidates,” Healy said.
According to the Capitol Police more than 300 people attended Saturday‘s rally.