The Dillard Doctrine

Urban Conservative Commentary on Politics & Life

On the Hampton Roads Tea Party

I’ve never weighed in on the actions of the Hampton Roads Tea Party board of directors, preferring to watch them take HRTP in the direction they feel is best. Until now.

The entire board-and especially my co-founder, Karen Hurd, has taken considerable heat over the past few weeks for endorsing a candidate in the 2nd District primary. After said candidate didn’t win, Karen had this to say:

Karen Miner Hurd, founder and chairwoman of the Hampton Roads Tea Party, blamed Loyola’s loss on the large field of candidates. If the three bottom candidates had dropped out and coalesced behind Loyola, she said, he would have won.

“They were selfish,” she said.

That set off another firestorm…and, regardless of what context it was delivered in, should have. I never met Jessica Sandlin, but I’ll say for Scott Taylor (who was my personal favorite, though his road was very much uphill) and Ed Maulbeck  that nothing could be further from the truth. We’re talking about two guys who put their lives on the line multiple times, in some of the world’s most dangerous environments. I can’t use a word like “selfish” to describe their actions after doing something that I-or very few others-wouldn’t want to or be willing to do.

Karen’s since apologized for making that statement. So, for me, the issue’s closed.

There’s a couple things I feel like I should say about this entire incident…and not from any leadership capacity, but as someone who was there at the beginning and has had a chance to watch HRTP grow.

First, to those who think Karen needs to resign as the chair-forget it. She has done an admirable job building the organization from nothing…literally. Her and I don’t always agree on the best direction to take (and when we haven’t, we have those discussions privately). Was the decision to endorse a candidate in this primary the best one? In hindsight, probably not. Was her statement, at best, ill-advised? Again in hindsight, probably so. I know her well enough to talk this up to a growing pain or tactical error, knowing that the lessons from the last few weeks will be discussed and learned from.

One of those discussions that will take place is how far HRTP should go in engaging in direct political activity (that is, endorsing candidates and actively, publicly supporting them). Within their tax-exempt status, they’re able to do so, but is it the best thing for an advocacy organization to take sides in a political campaign? I’ve said before that the tea party movement must be very careful not to become a tool of a political party or ideology (in fact, the HRTP manifesto says that we wouldn’t (or don’t) endorse a particular candidate or party)…and I’ve always been against the idea of tea party organizations morphing into-or creating-PACs.

However, for those who want to engage in the political process through campaigns (because even though you’re not working with the candidate, that’s still what it is), having a PAC is probably the best way to go about it. Let the PAC issue endorsements and work to get candidates elected, and let the advocacy arm…well, advocate. My friends at Vets for Freedom did this during the 2008 elections, and it worked quite well (though keeping the arms separate of each other is a little difficult, but that’s what lawyers are for!). I don’t think, though, that each tea party group in Virginia should rush out and start their own PAC. It would probably be better-and less painful-for this to be addressed by the Virginia Federation of Tea Party Patriots (if it hasn’t been already).

When a group that’s supposed to be about accountability takes a side-be it for a candidate in a political campaign or in support of an organization-their ability (and credibility) to demand that accountability takes a small hit. More often than not, those hits are survivable. For Karen and the HRTP board, this one is, and I’m confident that mistakes like this won’t happen again.

So, for the sake of a bigger purpose, let’s all put this episode away. The lumps that we took from it as a group are somewhat deserved, and we’ll learn from them. But the infighting’s gotta stop…and soon.

Otherwise, we’ll lose our effectiveness and credibility…and without those, we’re nothing.




Written by Coby Dillard

June 10, 2010 at 10:00 am

One Response

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  1. The HR Tea Party has been largely instrumental in making the 2010 2nd District Congressional Race Primary more engaging and more enlightening than any in my recollection and perhaps even in living memory.

    This is no small accomplishment.

    That it is attended with the “If only We had had more time” frustration that attends all worthy human strivings is no surprise and is no cause for recrimination.

    There are lessons to be learned.

    Ben Loyola’s leadership in standing up to make legally binding the particulars that he understands are obligated in his oath of office on election may be a watershed event.

    Why should this not become tradition for ALL candidates?

    Why should we not demand it in ALL future elections?

    Why should we not demand it NOW from Glenn Nye and Scott Rigell?

    They ask us to trust them? Let them stand behind their answer. We have a right to demand it – Now.

    Our nation’s challenges are so great that we cannot afford to be sloppy in guiding our candidates for office into their duty.
    And we cannot afford to be sloppy in our campaign to get the best possible candidate in office.

    Again Ben Loyola showed commendable grace and leadership in acknowledging Scott Rigell’s primary victory and calling for us to support Scott Rigell.

    Even in this Ben cannot help but bind our hearts to his.

    But now, is the time for us to help make the best remaining candidate the most electable.

    Perhaps HR Tea Party should ask Scott Rigell, Kenny Goldman and Glenn Nye to each present their ideal and particular oath of office as a oath of candidacy.
    Perhaps, Ben Loyola would agree to volunteer his services in helping them construct their well-formed oath of candidacy.
    Upon these competing oaths of candidacy Scott Rigell, Kenny Goldman and Glenn Nye can structure their public debate.

    This process will help all our candidates to be more worthy of our trust. In this we all win.

    Russell P Davis

    June 11, 2010 at 7:20 am

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