Tea partiers pull back from alliance with South Carolina's Republican Party
GOP Chairwoman Karen Floyd intended to create liaisons between the state party and the grass roots and help the two work together to elect more conservative Republicans.
The alliance between the South Carolina Republican Party and the state’s tea party organizations seems to have lasted less than a week, as grassroots groups chafed at the idea of being absorbed into the party apparatus.
The partnership announced Monday by state GOP Chairwoman Karen Floyd and Harry Kibler of the Upstate Coalition of Conservative Organizations, an umbrella group of tea party organizations, was intended to create liaisons between the state party and the grass roots and help the two work together to elect more conservative Republicans.
“This agreement is a start,” Kibler said Monday. “Having our groups work together will be of great benefit to the Republican Party and the state of South Carolina.”
But after getting calls from tea party groups across the country accusing the South Carolina organizations of selling out to the GOP, Kibler and the groups he represents are backing away from the state party.
“Everybody started dumping on Harry. He was getting calls from tea party people in California asking ‘Why did you sell us out?’” Roan A. Garcia-Quintana, executive director of the South Carolina group Americans Have Had Enough, said in an interview Friday.
In interviews with POLITICO and other news outlets, Floyd insisted that the arrangement was organized from the bottom up — with GOP activists in Greenville getting the ball rolling.
But Garcia-Quintana said he and other tea party organizers feared the push came from Floyd all along, and her appearances on several national television shows this week to tout the alliance made them more suspicious.
"The beauty of this,” said Floyd on "Morning Joe" on Monday, “is that this was not something that the South Carolina Republican Party pushed down. This is something that was organic. It came about by people on the grass roots coming together and saying, 'Look, we have these common values. We have these common goals."
“Her little tour made it sound like she was up to something, and these people don’t trust her,” said Garcia-Quintana, who worked with Kibler to create the partnership.
“The impression she gave was that they had formed a coalition,” he added. “You can’t profile these people; the only common thing is that they’re sick and tired of the people in power.”
Kibler sent a press release Thursday blasting Floyd’s “misrepresentation of facts,” and announced he would be holding a news conference Friday to discuss the relationship.
“It seems that many who did not trust the GOP’s intentions from the very beginning are now convinced that the GOP’s intent continues to be to confuse, divide and hence conquer this Liberty Movement of which they appeared to be frightened not only in South Carolina, but also all over the nation,” he added.
One South Carolina Republican official cracked, “This thing lasted shorter than a Hollywood marriage.”
But Friday, Floyd and Kibler, who’d crafted the deal, appeared together at the news conference as both tried to calm fears that the state party had tried to take over the tea party movement.
Their event was attended by roughly 60 people who gathered in a restaurant, and Floyd told POLITICO that the mood in the room was much less hostile toward the state GOP than Kibler’s press release would make it sound.
“There was a fear that the South Carolina Republican Party and the grass-roots activists had merged and that fear was alleviated,” she said. “It’s what one would expect when you deal with diverse coalitions with different agendas.”
Floyd insisted that coming out of the event Friday, “we are more focused on the common goals” that the state GOP and the tea party groups share, and that “the South Carolina Republican Party remains an open door.”
But many tea party activists remained skeptical of the attempt to tighten ties between their movement and the Republican Party.
“These are not just your toothless redneck types,” said Garcia-Quintana. “These are very educated people who want their liberty and don’t want to be hijacked by the party.”