Lafayette voters could put the TEA Party out of business.

The TEA Party movement in general and the Tea Party of Lafayette specifically take some pleasure in being small-government curmudgeons. Whether the movement locally is conscientiously opposed to discretionary spending by government or simply peddling right-wing claptrap remains a point of debate, and maybe it’s a bit of both. After taking on commercial real estate developer Glenn Stewart over the tax increment financing district Stewart wanted to create for his Parc Lafayette project — a confrontation that got ugly — The TPL proudly posted on its website a quote from the mercurial Stewart: “I think they are a bunch of wannabes who go around threatening our elected officials, and I think they ought to be ashamed of themselves. I think they’re the lunatic fringe.”

Ultimately, Stewart’s TIF ordinance was pulled. And to an extent the TPL can take credit for helping scuttle a pair of bills in the past legislative session that could have established other TIF districts, but the group remains largely a bunch of middle-aged and elderly white people at the loud, angry margins of our political life.

So now is put up or shut up time for the TPL, and it appears the group has its sights set on the City-Parish Council. Counting incumbents Jared Bellard (District 5) and William Theriot (District 9), the TPL has endorsed four candidates for the CPC. (Challengers Craig Spikes and Andy Naquin round out the TPL quartet.) And if we throw in Republican Joan Beduze, who is challenging fellow Republican Don Bertrand in District 7, it’s fair to say the TEA Party movement at the least, if not the Tea Party of Lafayette specifically, is backing five candidates for City-Parish Council.

Naquin is challenging Sam Doré in District 6 and Spikes wants incumbent Keith Patin’s District 8 seat. Beduze is not identified as TPL-endorsed on the group’s website, but her Facebook page resonates with a simpatico for TEA Party issues and with superstars such as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. And the candidates — Beduze, Theriot, Bellard, Spikes and Naquin — were the beneficiaries of a so-called “Conservative Caucus Fundraiser” last week in Broussard. An invitation to the event was posted on the TPL’s website.

While Spikes has no party affiliation, his fellow hopefuls from the Taxed Enough Already contingent — Naquin and Beduze — fit a profile that bit the establishment GOP in the rear in last year’s primary races: “more conservative” Republicans hoping to unseat “less conservative” Republicans. If you follow the chatter on the blogs and comment sections in Lafayette media, you know that Patin and Bertrand, who have voted for such “frivolities” as funding arts/culture, the comprehensive master plan and the horse farm, are frequently herded together under the RINO label — Republican in name only.

Both Theriot and Bellard have contenders on Oct. 22: fellow Republicans Walter Campbell and Britt Latiolais, respectively.
The Tea Party of Lafayette has also staked out positions against repealing the Lafayette Home Rule Charter and the school system property tax.
But at this point, even if their candidates sweep their respective races and the charter repeal and the school tax go down in flames, it might be fair to give the TEA Party movement an Incomplete; this will be, after all, the group’s first major election cycle in Lafayette Parish. But if its candidates and positions are rejected, it could be its last. — WP

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