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GF tea party hears Republican candidates, expresses viewpoints

About 120 people gathered Sunday afternoon for a pre-election tea party in the Ramada Inn to listen to local and statewide Republican candidates. Besides President Barack Obama, the main target of the group was Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., who is i...

About 120 people gathered Sunday afternoon for a pre-election tea party in the Ramada Inn to listen to local and statewide Republican candidates.

Besides President Barack Obama, the main target of the group was Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., who is in the fight of his 18-year political life running against Republican legislator Rick Berg.

Berg and a former House race opponent of Pomeroy, Kevin Cramer, running for re-election to the state Public Service Commission, joined local candidates on the podium.

Like the tea party movement, he too was moved to run in order to combat Obama's agenda of growing the federal government, Berg said before the event.

"We share a lot of the same concerns," he said of the tea party movement, which he has participated in by speaking at several events. "We feel the country has gone off track, and people are coming together to get it back on track."


Mike Coachman, Larimore, N.D., is retired from the Air Force and running for Grand Forks County Commission and is one of several local candidates who spoke at the two-hour rally.

"What I like about the tea party is that it's strong on the Constitution and strong on having a smaller government," Coachmen said in an interview.

He sees Americans' liberty being threatened by growing federal debt and government control, Coachman said.

"I just got back from the Czech Republic," he said about a two-week trip as a chaperone with a dozen Larimore seniors. "And there you have a country where the government really suppressed the people, and you can still tell that in their culture."

Even two decades since the Iron Curtain of communism fell, people still seem afraid to talk openly in public about issues, Coachman said.

"It was really eye-opening. Sometimes, we forget how great we've really got it and how easily we could lose it."

Scott Hennen, longtime talk radio celebrity in Fargo and earlier in Grand Forks, emceed the event.

He said it was good news that Sunday, the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and its other North Dakota newspapers including the Herald, endorsed Berg against Pomeroy in the race for U.S. House in North Dakota.


Still, the larger daily newspapers in the state "are so out of touch," that he's not sure if an endorsement will help Berg or hurt him, Hennen said.

While the tea party movement in the state clearly is promoting Republicans pretty much in the election Nov. 2, Hennen said Republicans also need to watch their P's and Q's.

The tea party is "an insurance policy" that "is going to keep the conservative wing of the Republican Party in power," he said.

The multi-message nature of the tea party is a strength, not a detriment, Hennen said, He listed his trifecta: the national debt more than tripling to $13.5 trillion since Pomeroy took office 18 years ago; the passage of Obama's health care reform that he said is a government takeover; and abortion.

In Fargo in the state's only abortion clinic, "one day every week a kindergarten class of children is exterminated," Hennen said. "This is a holocaust and it's absolutely unforgiveable."

When he asked the crowd how many had gotten politically active for the first time because of the tea party's concerns, about two dozen raised their hands.

Dane Gillett, an 18-year-old from Grafton, N.D., who spoke for 20 minutes to the group, saying he was born as Pomeroy began his career in the House and it's time for him to go.

David Kiefel, a student adviser in UND's communications school, echoed what several said: that Obama's election was a boon to conservatives this year.


"When you hit rock bottom, you definitely get energized."

A 1970 graduate of UND, Kiefel said "I was a lefty during the '60s, but started reading about Reagan in the '70s."

Obama's health care reform is much more than just another spending bill, and its passage spurred him to get more involved in politics, Kiefel said.

"This is a critical change in the country," he said.

Former East Grand Forks City Council member Robert "Punky" Beauchamp said he's attended several tea party meetings the past 18 months.

"I'm an independent conservative, and I've voted for people of both parties," he said. "What really attracts me to the tea party movement is that I'm really concerned about federal spending and deficits. I'm concerned about my kids and my grandchildren and what kind of world they will live in."

In his 16 years on City Council (1988-2003), he saw the growing power of state and federal governments impinging on people and local political subdivisions, Beauchamp said.

"This country has really made a leap toward socialism, and I don't like it. Government has taken too large a role," he said. "Spending more money is not always the solution, and I demonstrated that at the local level."


Sean Jenson of Grand Forks, one of the organizers of the event, said he was hoping for more people, but the crowd wasn't bad for an event pulled together within just a couple of weeks.

"We wanted to get something out there before the election," he said.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com

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