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Rhode Island Tea Party Insists It’s Not Going Anywhere, Anytime Soon

Monday, January 14, 2013


They may not make national headlines for spirited protests and large-scale rallies but the Tea Party is active and strong in Rhode Island.

Or so says Rhode Island Tea Party President Susan Wynne, who argues that the movement is not going away anytime soon despite a November election in which many of the races party members identified as the most important on the ticket failed to go their way.

“We were very disappointed, very disappointed,” Wynne said. “Honestly, all of the candidates that we worked for, we put our time and our treasure behind, didn’t win and there were some races we were really shocked about.”

Despite the election results, however, Wynne and the Tea Party are optimistic about 2013.

“The Left would like to think that we’ve gone away but we haven’t,” she said. “I don’t think many people realize that we start at the kitchen table. We are in school committees, we’re in town councils, city councils, we’re in local government and that’s really where we’re building the ground swell, and I think as the years go on, people will move from city councils and school committees to state and higher office. We’re there, it’s just been quiet.”

While 2012 was a year in which the party focused largely on the November elections—Wynne herself called them her party’s “top priority”—the next 12 months will offer the group a chance to get back to their roots.

And instead of making headlines and getting attention through their actions, Wynne and company have chosen to focus their efforts on making changes within the State House and within Rhode Island’s communities from the ground up.

“Right now we’re in the gearing up stage,” Wynne said. “We’re gearing up, we’re in the planning stage and we’re putting together our platform. We’re getting ready to jump in and be here every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for the committee hearings and at the same time we’re going to be looking at getting back into our neighborhoods and communities again by building small groups [of supporters].”

Wynne and Michael Puyana, a volunteer legislative lobbyist for the group, have said that their focus this year will be on making personal connections in the State House and talking to legislators on both sides of the aisle on a “one-to-one” basis.

Their toughest obstacle, they insist, is clearing up misconceptions about the group and its platforms that have been prevalent in what they call the “mainstream media.”

Rhode Island Tea Party President Susan Wynee says her party has grown from a protest movement to one that prefers a face-to-face relationship with local lawmakers

“They think we’re an extreme wing of the Republican Party and that we’re highly funded, and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Wynne said.

The 2012 election was particularly hard on the group, Wynne said, as they found themselves playing defense as many questioned their preferred candidates and their stances on many of the hot-button issues in Rhode Island.

“We are working really hard on helping people to get to know us and it really is up to us to brand ourselves,” she said. “We need to make sure we let people know who we are and what we stand for instead of letting others define who we are because that’s really the goal of the mainstream media, to call us ‘those evil Tea Partiers.’

"Now that the election is over, it’s going to give us a chance to brand ourselves, which we started doing a year ago by getting to know our legislators on a one-to-one basis, letting them get to know us, sharing business cards so they can feel free to call us if they have questions about where we stand. Our style is different than it was.”

As the legislative season begins to heat up with Governor Chafee’s upcoming State of the State address and a number of controversial topics reach the State House floor, Puyana says his group faces a challenge in differentiating itself from other grassroots organizations that share similar platforms.

One of the differences, Wynne says, is that the Rhode Island Tea Party has no interest in taking a stand on any social issues whatsoever.

The goal, she argues, is to focus on what the party feels are its most important agenda items.

“You know how we started? We were a protest movement,” she said. “We started as a protest movement, it was all rallies, rallies, rallies. But we’ve grown, we’ve morphed, we have gone much deeper than that. We’re in the communities, we’re starting to get into the boards and commissions and the school committees so it’s not about the rallies anymore.”

Wynne and Puyana admit that while rallies lead to greater publicity, ultimately the Rhode Island Tea Party needs to shift its focus to items that may go unnoticed by the general public.

“We’re much more in the advocacy end of things,” Puyana said. “Rallies are fun but after a while you get to a point where you’re shouting at empty buildings. You come here on a Sunday and who’s here? The pigeons?”

Puyana says the shift will benefit the RI Tea Party in the long run.

“We think that getting to know the people who can really make a difference, who can get things done, getting them to know us, having them understand who we are, what we’re fighting for, what we believe in, we really think that it can be much more effective because it gets much more to the source of where the work needs to be done,” he said.

That doesn’t mean the Tea Party will be completely behind the scenes, however.

With a focus on social media and an emphasis on their mailing list of over 2,000 subscribers, Wynne and Puyana have no doubts they can get their message across and say the party will continue to influence Rhode Island politics, even if their efforts last November didn’t pan out the way they had planned.

“We get asked all the time what we’re doing,” Puyana said. “If you really want to find out what we’re doing, look at statements that we’ve issued and get on down to the State House and talk to the people who are actually making the laws and putting together the statues that affect your life because those are the people that we’re talking to and those are people that we’re working with to try to improve the quality of life for all Rhode Islanders.” 


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Comment #1 by Ned Rivers on 2013 01 14

We were happy to meet Paul and share our vision for our continued advocacy on behalf of the RI taxpayer. You may like to know that we are not affiliated with the Tea Party Patriots as the logo might suggest. Our efforts will focus on tax relief, both personal and business as well as easing the regulatory burden on RI business owners, budgetary issues, voluntary union membership legislation as well as issues pertaining to E-Verify, School Choice and Healthcare Exchanges...

Comment #2 by Susan Wynne on 2013 01 14

Thank you, Susan, for your commitment. Especially as more people wake up to what big government socialism really means -- higher taxes, more bureaucracy, and less freedom -- they'll be voting for the fiscal responsibility that has always been the bedrock of the Tea Party movement.

Comment #3 by Art West on 2013 01 14

with the progressives driving RI into the dirt, the Tea Party has job security here for a long time.

Comment #4 by Mateo C on 2013 01 14

You have a major communications problem...please digest this paragraph...“We get asked all the time what we’re doing,” Puyana said. “If you really want to find out what we’re doing, look at statements that we’ve issued and get on down to the State House..." Really? You cannot be serious and adopt that as your communications policy. While advocacy is important, the visible face of the Tea Party is also important...large meetings, rallies because they provide an opportunity to communicate your message to the general public. You need to do both in addition to your Social media campaigns.

Comment #5 by george ross on 2013 01 14

i have a straighforward quetion for you Ms. Wynee. we hear a lot about cutting spending, but the people who propose cutting can be very vague when asked exactly what will be cut. Here is my question would you be in favor of every politician taking aa actual cut in pay and paying more for there benefits. Can i get a yes or no answer to my question

Comment #6 by Howard Miller on 2013 01 14

You want tax relief, then get rid of wasteful government spending that only benefits the politicians and the lazy, and the illegals.

Comment #7 by Mark St. Pierre on 2013 01 14

RI has the most corrupt political system in the nation and your agenda is to pass out your business cards at the state house? How about exposing the “special interest” groups that bribe through campaign contributions instead of kissing their butts.

Comment #8 by Charles Marsh on 2013 01 14

Please tell me when did President Obama say he opposes armed guards for school children? Do TeaPublicans now have to make up his saying things to meet their argumentative needs? How stupid can TeaPublicans be? It's pretty obvious why a President's children need more protection than the average school child. It's standard for any Presidential family to have extra protection for obvious reasons. Nobody complained about Chelsea Clinton or the Bush daughters being followed around by secret service agents everywhere they went, including to school---even when they went to college. Oh, that's right they didn't scare TeaPublicans because they were white. Can't narrow-minded TeaPublicans use the critical thinking skills of grown-ups? Why not think of their country instead of their continual crazy little tribal dance of opposition. They've opposed EVERY action of this president for four years now. Voters are finally catching on to their idiocy and their FOX News lies. They can't even win an election in an bad economy. All they seem able to do is bring up silliness like this---and birth certificates, and contraception, and legitimate rape, and Muslim membership, and Kenyan citizenship, and conspiracy theories, and how health care will kill the elderly . . . .

Comment #9 by Joe Handly on 2013 01 14

Mr George Ross, since it appears that you feel strongly about the need for and importance of rallies and similar public displays, we invite you to become an organizer of these activities. We would be happy to refer you to various grassroots groups that share our positions, to individuals who could provide speaking roles, to musicians, and to other entities that normally comprise public events. We always welcome folks who share our goals of helping improve things for all of Rhode Island's citizens!

Comment #10 by Mike Puyana on 2013 01 15

OOPS! ...feel strongly about the need for and THE importance of rallies...

Comment #11 by Mike Puyana on 2013 01 15

Mr Howard Miller, the RI Tea Party is on the record for supporting numerous bills which have sought to lower spending, such as municipal pension reform, e-verify, repeal of the in-state tuition for children of illegal alien residents, education reform, maintenance and strengthening of the state pension reform bill, raising the prevailing wage limit for public construction contracts... For starters.

Comment #12 by Mike Puyana on 2013 01 15

Mr. Joe Handly, you've certainly got some interesting views on things...

Comment #13 by Mike Puyana on 2013 01 15

Mike you sound like a typical politician my qustion is do you think one of the ways to save money is for all politicians to take a cut in pay and to pay more for the benefits they receive yes or no

Comment #14 by Howard Miller on 2013 01 15

Howard, if you think the GA members need their pay AND benefits drastically cut, you need to check your facts. The good ones DO earn their stipends with the time & effort they put into their constituents. As for the Washington delegation, maybe those folks should consider giving back their salaries... I won't belabor the point. Rhode Island's problems do NOT stem from General Assembly paychecks. They stem from the endless supply of OTHER ways that tax dollars are wasted, several of which I have already listed. BTW...I am not now, nor do I plan to be, a politican.

Comment #15 by Mike Puyana on 2013 01 16

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