The Manchurian Tea Party Candidates

| Fri Jun. 18, 2010 5:39 PM EDT

Ah, Florida! Where recounts don't count; where even school boards are corrupt; where holy water is a weapon; where kids of pols are all black sheep or dark horses. It's a political playground down there, but beyond the loud bullies, this playground's got a fair share of quiet, devious, nerdy geniuses.

Which makes the latest allegations by Florida GOP chairman and state Sen. John Thrasher slightly plausible. His charge: Lefties have pulled an "Alvin Greene" in the Sunshine State. According to the estimable St. Pete Times:

Republicans see a conspiracy theory: a number of the tea party candidates are former Democrats, some appear financially strapped to pay the $1,800 filing and others are filing to run in districts far away from their listed address. A number of the seats are also targeted by Democrats for takeover.

"The recent flurry of last minute filings by so–called 'tea party candidates' looks awfully suspicious," said GOP Chairman John Thrasher in a statement. "While a few tea-party candidates across the state do have ties to the tea party movement, in the majority of instances, it appears that the Democrats have coordinated a dishonest attempt to hide phony candidates behind the name "tea party" and to confuse voters who may be supportive of the tea party movement, effectively stealing votes from true conservative candidates and injuring the grassroots tea party movement as a whole."

Apparently, all this is being coordinated by one Fred O'Neal, an Orlando attorney (and registered Democrat) who last year created the "Tea Party of Florida" as an actual political party, much to the dismay of some more ardent patriot activists. There are whispered rumors of a link between O'Neal and firebrand Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, he of Rachel Maddow fame. One thing's for sure, they share a burning hatred of old-line Republicans, as this letter from O'Neal to a GOP candidate attests:

Republican politicians, in my experience, tend to vote the way their "masters" tell them to vote, rather than in the best interest of the people...

If you think "trickle down economics" and representing special interests is best for the country, then you have a right to say so and you have a right to run for office in a political party which generally agrees with your philosophy.

I, on the other hand, disagree. I think the American people have been "trickled on" enough.

Whew! It's hard to say what the impact of O'Neal's recruited Tea Party candidates will be. But this has always been the big risk underlying the Republican Party's delicate courtship of the angry patriot movement: Grassroots libertarians by nature aren't big joiners, so it's hard to claim their support without driving them out of your camp.

The state Democratic Party, of course, poo-poos any allegations that these Tea Partiers are their plants. "Despite their beliefs, the black helicopters are not coming to get John Thrasher," party spokesman Eric Jotkoff told the Times. "Maybe they should spend more time cleaning up their party."

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