The Dillard Doctrine

Urban Conservative Commentary on Politics & Life

Setting the Record Straight

I’m writing this because I don’t think many of these individuals have gotten the recognition they deserve., and because no one has, in my opinion, written an accurate  history of the Tea Party movement in Virginia. This is mine.

I’m pulling this from not just my memory of events, but from the emails that I’ve dug up (bless the multi-GB storage capacity of Gmail!!). Everything takes place between March 1, 2009 and May  2009-when I began work on Gov. McDonnell’s campaign (and where, it’s said, I “left” the movement).

My involvement in Virginia’s Tea Party movement is pretty well known. What isn’t as well known is how the organization that everyone now recognizes as the Virginia Tea Party Patriots really got started.

I don’t remember exactly how I came across Karen Hurd’s page on Facebook, but somehow I did and sent her a message asking her if there was going to be a tea party rally in the Hampton Roads area. She had already done a lot of the legwork to get a group started, and I told her I’d help out in any way I could. Since I wasn’t working at the time, I was able to devote a good bit of time into helping out.

On March 7, I got an email from Eric Odom’s group (then called Don’tGo, now called something else) asking for individuals to help coordinate the tea party rallies in their states. The email:

As of the time of writing this post, we have 49 Tea Party Revolts being tracked across this site (, and we’re adding about another 20 or so in the next few days.

The effort required in organizing a 50 state network of events such as this can be quite a challenge, and proper communication is key.

With this in mind, we’re going to start looking for a “coordinator” for each state who can be the bridge between the local organizers and us here at

If you can volunteer some of your time, don’t mind dealing with a sizable amount of email, can help coordinate conference calls, and can work to ensure that organizers are able to get event and contact details to us here at the national level, we want to hear from you!

Didn’t sound like it require much, and it seemed something similar to things I had done for other groups while I was living in DC…so I offered to help. As I would soon find out, offers to “help” were essentially “tag, you’re it.” My name popped up on the TaxDayTeaParty website, and that was that.

At the time, I knew of the Hampton Roads event, as well as one in Richmond (at the time, Sara James was heading up the Richmond Tea Party, and had a pretty good group helping her out). On March 11, I was informed of another event being planned in Charlottesville by Bill Hay (his organization would come to be known as the Jefferson Area Tea Party) by the national coordinators.  On March 13, I got an email from Ted Dingler, who was setting up an event in Abingdon.  That same day, I got an email from Sharon Nicely about holding a rally in Roanoke. As rallies were springing up everywhere, and wanting to give everyone a chance to talk with each other, I arranged for a conference call with all the known organizers that following Tuesday.

Our first press release-announcing the rallies in Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Charlottlesville-went out on March 18. The next day, I was aware of the following rallies being planned (listed with their coordinators):

Richmond -Sara James
Hampton Roads (Tidewater area)-Karen Hurd
Charlottlesville-William Hay
Abingdon-Ted Dingler
Roanoke-Sharon Nicely
Lynchburg Raymond Coble and Brendan McIntyre
Williamsburg-Robert Warren, Thomas Chappell, and Kristin Coyner
Hampton-Jo Whistler

On March 30, we invited bloggers from across Virginia on a conference call to speak with us about our rallies and what we felt the movement was about. Don’t remember how many we actually had on the call, but we did get a nice writeup from Norman Leahy at Tertium Quids:

They aren’t paid to do any of this. Many of them aren’t otherwise politically active. And for some, this is this will be their first foray into organized, political action of any sort.

But they are learning quickly — networking with each other and with people across the state. They are fast-learning the old-media ropes, appearing in print, on the radio and even dipping their toes into television. They have blogs, naturally, and they want other bloggers to join the conversation.

As events became springing up across Virginia (and the national websites became slow to update all our events), we established a state webpage on March 29.

Our first major bump in the road occured around April 1. The City of Abingdon denied our organizers there a permit to hold their event in the city. As another rally was being planned in Bristol, the organizers there combined their efforts with Ted’s to hold a single event. Our small organization-now called the Virginia Tea Party Coalition-held our final coordination call on April 6.

Our first rally was held April 11 on the campus of William and Mary, with the remainder held on April 15th.  The rest, for the most part, is history.

I had my first interview with the McDonnell campaign in December of 2008. I didn’t begin working with them until May (for several reasons; the final-and most important-being the birth of my daughter). My vision for the group of organizers we had at the time was to evolve into a state organization where groups could coordinate, and new groups would have a ready resource for lessons learned. However, I knew that remaining as the state coordinator for Virginia’s Tea Party movement and working on a campaign staff would be damaging to one of those entities, if not both. On May 12, I sent off my final email as state coordinator:

The good thing is that I know that VTPP is in good hands with you all running the show, so I have no worries about our future. Of all the groups I’ve worked with in the past, this group has had none of the infighting and other things that generally splinter movements like ours. Going forward, the best way to keep the momentum growing will be to keep the same spirit of cooperation we’ve built over the last few months. For those of you who don’t know, there’s already been some degree of splintering at the national level…we can’t let anything like that happen here.

Later that year, the Federation of Virginia Tea Party Patriots was formed.

I credit the following people with the ideas and motivation that led to the establishment of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots, as they are the ones who laid the foundation on which the organization stands today. While there were many others who helped along the way (each organizer had several others assisting them, the majority of whom I never had contact with), this is the core group that I worked with from March through May 2009. Many of them, like myself, have moved on to other endeavors-some by choice and some due to organizational infighting and other conflicts-but their roles in establishing the movement here in Virginia should not be forgotten:

Richmond-Sara James, Mickey White, Eric McGrane, Joe Cacciotti, Lisa Everington, and Jim Smyers
Hampton Roads-Karen Hurd, Marshall Smith, Jo Whistler, and myself
Charlottlesville-William Hay
Abingdon-Ted Dingler
Roanoke-Sharon Nicely and Rita Grace
Lynchburg-Raymond Coble and Brendan McIntyre
Williamsburg-Robert Warren, Thomas Chappell, and Kristin Coyner

It’s my hope that one day these individuals, who I was honored to work with, will receive the recognition they deserve for which so many people stand in support of today.


Written by Coby Dillard

July 20, 2011 at 4:19 pm

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