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Rhode Island Tea Party Breaks Up—New Group Forms

Friday, August 12, 2011

 

The Rhode Island Tea Party has broken up and a core group of volunteers has left to form their own organization—the Ocean State Tea Party in Action, GoLocalProv has learned.

It’s unclear what the future of the older and original state Tea Party holds. One of the founders and president, Colleen Conley has been conspicuously absent from Tea Party events and activities over the past few months. Yesterday, Conley did not respond to a request for a comment.

For the past few months, the public face of the Tea Party has been Lisa Blais, one of three board members and a spokeswoman for the organization.

Blais is now one of the leaders of the new organization. Blais told GoLocalProv that all of the volunteers behind the Tea Party’s campaign at the Statehouse—including a successful defeat of binding arbitration legislation in the last session—have all left and formed the new group. In addition to herself, she said four out of six members of the Tea Party steering committee have made the departure.

Disagreement over direction of Tea Party

Blais said they left because the other two members of the board—Conley and Nan Hayden—decided to take the Tea Party in a “different direction.”

“The Board of the [Rhode Island Tea Party] decided to take a different direction for the group. As one board member of three and one of the five members of the legislative committee that resigned from the organization, I decided to move on in order to continue the work that had proven effective. I appreciate the opportunity to have volunteered for the RITP,” Blais told GoLocalProv. “The excellent work of the last number of months will be continued in the Ocean State Tea Party in Action.”

She added: “We were particularly pleased with having made GoLocalProv.com’s Who’s Hot list. We are that group and will continue that work. We look forward to collaboration with all good government groups, tea partiers and citizen activists in RI.”

She declined to elaborate on what differences of opinion there were over the future agenda of the Tea Party.

State Rep Doreen Costa, one of the original members of the Tea Party, confirmed there had been a split in the organization. She said she will serve as a legislative liaison for the new group. But she said she will also maintain ties to the Rhode Island Tea Party.

“I’m just going to support anybody I can who has the same values,” Costa said.

Focus on legislation, economic climate

Ocean State Tea Party in Action says it will focus on legislative issues, improving the state’s economic climate, and serving as a voice for taxpayers, according to advance copy of a news release announcing its formation obtained by GoLocalProv.

“The Ocean State Tea Party in Action provides a laser-like focus on regulations, laws and pending legislation that undermine the voters’ and taxpayers’ desire to achieve prosperity for all Rhode Islanders in a flourishing economy,” said Deloris Issler, a lobbyist for the Rhode Island Tea Party who is now leaving to join the Ocean State Tea Party.

Already several other groups are lending their support to the new group, including RI Salons United—which opposed Governor Chafee’s sales tax expansion, and Patriots of South County and RI Friends, according to the news release.

“If we are to restore Rhode Island’s economy and move it from being the 50th worst state in which to do business to one of the top ten states in which to do business, we have no alternative but to restore a balance in the State House,” Blais said. “Jump on-board with the Ocean State Tea Party in Action, we’re on the move.”

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