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Wednesday, October 3,2012

A Tea Party trail

Why are Republicans in Delhi Township denying their Tea Party roots?

by Sam Inglot

Despite leaving a trail of Tea Party affiliations in his wake — along with the opinions of other elected officials — Delhi Township supervisor candidate Jeff Hall remains adamant that he is not a tea partier. But why? 

Hall says his message and politics are beyond that far-right arm of the GOP.

“I’m not saying we don’t support the Tea Party. I don’t even know if there is one anymore,” Hall said. “It’s a matter that we’re our own people — it’s not a party affiliation for us.”

Hall trounced the other Republican supervisor candidate, Stuart Goodrich, in the August primary. Goodrich has been the township supervisor for 10 years and believes Hall would readily bring that brand of GOP politics to the job. Hall is running on a slate with fellow conservatives Derek Bajema, who is defending his township trustee incumbency, and Steve Dougan, an Ingham County commissioner who is running for township treasurer. 

Democratic Delhi Township Clerk Evan Hope believes a recent letter to City Pulse from Bajema indicates that they are making an effort to back away from the Tea Party label as the general election moves closer, suggesting the group is trying to tone down the rhetoric. Bajema wrote a letter that said this paper shouldn’t be “so quick to label” the Republican as a Tea Party member. 

Yet Hall certainly has the paper trail of a Tea Party candidate. In his unsuccessful campaign for state representative in 2010, Hall scored a nine out of 10 on the Mobile Action Patriot Strikeforce candidate questionnaire. Both MAPS and the questionnaire were connected to Grassroots in Michigan, a group started by Tea Party activist Joan Fabiano. MAPS also held a meeting at Hall’s church in Holt that same year. Fabiano assisted in Hall’s 2010 campaign and has been active in helping out with Hall’s supervisor run, but she wrote in an email that while she may be assisting him, his campaign is not of the Tea Party variety.

Campaign finance reports show that a successful campaign earlier this year against a proposed sludge dryer in the township, which was spearheaded by Hall, received $500 from Americans for Prosperity of Michigan, the statewide branch of the Koch brothers super PAC that attempts to recruit “taxpayer activists.” (Hall himself donated over $1,000 to the Delhi Neighbors for Common Sense campaign. Fabiano was the campaign treasurer.)

Among the couple hundred “likes” on Hall’s Facebook page, there are several Tea Party groups. Until recently, his online LinkedIn profile said “Grassroots Tea Party Organizers” was a group he was associated with.  

Hall remains steadfast in his stance that he is not a Tea Party candidate. 

As for the Tea Party hosting events at his church, Hall said the group merely rented the space and that the Ingham County Republican Party has done the same thing before. 

Hall said the online connection to the Tea Party through LinkedIn was nothing official. 

“I wasn’t really a member. They linked to me. I probably accepted the link,” he said. “I find it interesting that this is the debate. Delhi is a lot more than the Tea Party. I got 70 percent of the vote. That wasn’t just the Tea Party vote. I enjoy the support of the Tea Party … there are Democrats supporting me. There really is no one particular group to pigeonhole us in.”

There was once a time when some Republicans were eager to carry the flag for the Tea Party family. In Delhi Township, it appears one clan of tea partiers are growing up and emancipating themselves from their founders.

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