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Political Misfits 

Scenes from the not-so-bipartisan Tucson Tea Party

The Tucson Tea Party event on Saturday, Oct. 10, was billed as a bipartisan political love-fest by organizers.

But once folks showed up at the Tucson Electric Park carrying large "No on Prop 200" signs, that bipartisan spirit disappeared.

Caitlin Jensen and Murray Hudson got to experience that Tea Party camaraderie first-hand as they carried a No on Prop 200 sign from one end of the park to the other. When they walked back toward the entrance, two women walked closely in front of them, using anti-Obama signs to block the No on Prop 200 signs.

"ACORN coming through," the women shouted repeatedly as they walked in front of the volunteers.

When asked why they thought the two were involved with ACORN, one of the women answered, "How do you know they're not? Are you with ACORN?"

Despite the women's shouts and their close proximity, Hudson said he didn't feel like he was being harassed.

"But we have been answering a lot of questions and finding out that there are also a lot of people here who do not support Prop 200," Hudson said between the shouts.

Proposition 200, the Public Safety First Initiative, would require the city to hire an estimated 333 new police officers and 70 new firefighters in the next five years. All of the Republicans running for the Tucson City Council have said they're supporting the ballot measure.

Jensen and Hudson's harassers weren't the only people at the Tea Party to take notice of the No on Prop 200 volunteers, who carried their large signs down the ballpark aisles while speakers took the stage on the baseball diamond.

From that stage, Tucson City Council candidate Shaun McClusky pointed out the people carrying the No on Prop 200 signs, inferring they were infiltrating the event.

"See those people? They are not Republicans," McClusky told the crowd.

On Oct. 7, Brandon Patrick, who is running a campaign against Prop 200, told the Weekly that he was assured by Tea Party co-organizer Trent Humphries that no one would be speaking at the event either in opposition or support of Prop 200.

However, McClusky dedicated most of his speech to his support of Prop 200.

"Do you feel safe in your community?" McClusky asked, receiving a roaring no from those in the ballpark seats. "We need to make sure we keep this community safe ... I will not raise your taxes."

No on Prop 200 volunteer Jensen said McClusky should check his facts.

"The No on 200 campaign had been in contact with Trent Humphries, and as a bipartisan committee, we were invited by Mr. Humphires himself to come and share our message. The fact is that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of opponents of Prop 200 present at Saturday's Tea Party, presumably mostly Republican, who thanked us for our efforts," Jensen wrote in an e-mail.

As far as supporters of No on Prop 200 being all Democrats, Jensen said McClusky should take a look at his fellow Republicans who've come out against Prop 200, including Jack Camper with the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and Michael Guymon at the Metropolitan Pima Alliance.

"Furthermore, we are astonished that Mr. McClusky stood in front of Tucson's Tea Party and advocated for an unfunded mandate which will amount to taxation without representation for tens of thousands of county citizens that will not get to vote in this election," Jensen added.

Humphries said the No on Prop 200 campaign was offered the same opportunity as the Prop 200 group: a chance to rent booth space for $300. The Prop 200 campaign had a booth, while No on Prop 200 didn't, instead showing up at the free event like dozens of other Tea Partiers wielding signs.

Many Tea Party signs on Saturday depicted Obama in Joker-face, reminiscent of The Dark Knight; others depicted the president as a Pinocchio-like figure with a growing nose.

The crowd helped make history, according to Humphries. The parking lot, which he was told holds 3,500 cars, was full.

"We estimate there were 6,000 to 7,000 people there," Humphries said.

UA sophomore Trevor Hill described himself as a conservative with an interest in politics, and said he may someday run for office. Being part of political history is what brought him out Saturday for the Tea Party, but the 19-year-old said he didn't expect to find himself in the middle of a debate.

But there he was, standing next to a man holding a series of signs, including a not-so-kind sign regarding Fox News pundit and Tea Party darling Glenn Beck. Across from them stood two other men, and they exchanged differing opinions on Beck and the border.

Hill found his role to be that of a facilitator, pointing out that there isn't always a simple black-and-white way of addressing the country's problems.

Tricia Brown was standing on the edge watching the debate take place. She finally chimed in when everyone stopped to explain why they were at the Tea Party event.

"I just can't have these conversations with my co-workers. They don't want to look at the truth," Brown said. "I've been called a racist by some friends, which is just ridiculous. There are major changes happening right now in the world. The Democrats haven't helped, and the Republicans are just as bad. There has to be something else out there."

Brown said the Tea Party is that "something else," allowing her to find people who share the same opinions. When asked what scares her most in this new world, Brown said fascism, which is why she and others in the Tea Party see a strong similarity between Obama and Hitler.

"No one else is talking about this, so we have to," she said.

Meanwhile, Larry Gray sat outside of the ballpark in a red-and-white Tea Party T-shirt at a little table he'd set up for his medical-marijuana petitions. When asked whether it had been a good crowd for gathering signatures, Gray grumbled about Republicans who don't seem to understand his position.

But as the speakers ended and the crowd left, Gray was surrounded by folks clad in red, white and blue reaching out to sign his petition.

"It isn't about what party you belong to," Gray said, smiling up at all the people holding his pens and clipboards.

More by Mari Herreras

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