Tea Party movement brings big crowd to Perham
A grassroots effort calling for less government spending and limited government involvement in Americans' lives came to Perham last Friday.
An estimated 350 braved the icy roads and filed into the Perham Area Community Center for a Tea Party hosted by Heart of the Land Conservatives.
Sue Nelson, one of the event organizers, was pleased with how many people came out to voice their concerns with the government.
"The Tea Party Friday night was a huge success on so many fronts," Nelson said. "It was a great turn-out considering the weather, great response to the speakers and citizen participation, and a wonderful reflection of what the Tea Party movement is all about: a non-partisan gathering of individuals who are mobilized to bring attention to excessive government spending and taxation."
Although the Tea Party events are billed as non-partisan, the message and majority in attendance are more aligned with conservative ideology.
Scott Hennen, conservative radio host from Fargo, emceed the Perham event, which began with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann leading the cheers for Republican Scott Brown's recent victory in Massachusetts.
"The only way we are going to truly reclaim and take back the greatness of our country is to get back to fiscal responsibility, and get back to limited government," Bachmann said.
Bachmann went on to energize the conservative crowd with a message of taking back the country.
"Going forward, we need to recognize this November when we go to the ballot box this is our opportunity to take back America," she said. "And we will, one house seat, one senate seat at a time."
For Nelson, and co-organizer Gretchen Hoffman, who is running for the state senate seat in District 10B, the Tea Party is all about government intervention.
"Of the people, by the people and for the people," Nelson said. "That is not a party thing, it is a Constitution thing."
Nelson blames both Democratic and Republican politicians for creating big government.
"Big government is not the answer and it is high time we realize that, knock off the party crap and recognize first and foremost we are Americans and read the Constitution," she said.
The event featured a number of political candidates stumping for various state offices, including four running for governor.
"The reason we are all here today is not because we hate our country. It's because we love our country," said Marty Seifert, candidate for governor from Marshall.
Seifert, who told the crowd he grew up on a hog farm, said he was the, "only candidate with first-hand experience cutting pork."
Tom Emmer of Delano, also running for governor, said: "This (Tea Party) is a lot bigger than Republicans. This is a lot bigger than Independents. This is a lot bigger than Democrats. This is about our country. This is about our freedom."
Also on hand were governor candidates Bill Haas and Philip Herwig.
The candidates answered questions on standard topics like education, illegal immigration, and budget deficits.
Ron Melby, a business owner in Perham, wasn't buying the responses to questions. This was his first Tea Party and his intention for attending was simple.
"I wanted to see if there were indeed politicians out there that were going to actually listen to concerns of the people," Melby said.
And did he find what he was looking for?
"They didn't get close to it. Politics is getting way too professional. Let's be responsible. The solution is not in quick fixes and political mottos."
Melby considers himself conservative fiscally and more of a Blue Dog Democrat than a Republican, but said he's just tired of the professional politics.
Someone during the event asked the governor candidates for their short answers on where they stand on illegal immigration.
"It ought to end," Seifert said. "There's a difference between legal and illegal, and we welcome people who want to come to the U.S. and realize the American dream; working hard and playing by the rules. Jumping the fence is not playing by the rules."
Talk on education
Education questions drew answers like teaching citizenship in schools -- not indoctrination.
Herwig said the state's students are struggling or failing in math, reading and science. He told the crowd the state needs to attach the money to students and create a free market in education.
"Let the parents make the decision where their kids go to school," Herwig said.
There was talk of leveling the financial playing field in education for rural Minnesota schools, as far as equal aid for students in the metro schools and rural districts. Emmer and Haas also suggested the state aid money follow the child, and let parents make the choice where their children are educated.
Perham Police Chief Brian Nelson spoke about protecting Second Amendment rights, which is the right to keep and bear arms.
"I know we're not supposed to be single issue voters, and I don't think I am. But the one thing I do look at is how a candidate feels about the Second Amendment," Nelson said.
Nelson said he uses where candidates stand on this issue as a barometer for whom he may support.
"This isn't about guns. It's about freedom. It's about individual rights. It's about trust and the liberties of people living in a free society."
Nelson went on to tell the crowd how every year nearly 2.5 million American citizens legally use a firearm to protect their life and property. He cited other statistics on crime and criminals, as well as saying, "never before have we had a more anti-gun, anti-freedom president than today."
Later, as Nelson took the microphone around as attendees asked questions, one man commented, "I want to know if this guy's running for governor," he said, referring to Nelson. "I'm voting for him."
Nelson graciously laughed off the suggestion as he walked to take the next question.