GOP Off the Endangered List in the Northeast

Political zoologists have been fretting for some time over the fate of the vanishing sub-species of Northeastern Republican Politicians. (NERPs) In New England, pandas and spotted owls snicker at GOP senators, who number only four today, and Republican House members went extinct several years ago.

This year, however, new breeds of conservationists -- primarily found in tea parties -- are seeking to reintroduce these endangered creatures back into their natural habitats.

I’ve gotten a firsthand look at these efforts while working full time on a New York Republican’s congressional campaign and coordinating with staffers engaged in the same task in other districts. What some observers seem to find more remarkable than anything else is that a tea party movement in the Northeast even exists. Most contemporary media depictions tend to portray the tea parties as a traditional, conservative Republican phenomenon fitting most comfortably in the Deep South or Mountain West.

But here in upstate New York we have been contacted by no less than nine individual tea parties and related constitutional restoration groups in the 22nd district alone. We even located one thriving membership in Ithaca, New York. This was particularly shocking, given that Ithaca is virtually indistinguishable from most of San Francisco except for the snow during the winter months.  Similar activity is being reported across the rest of the state and the entire Northeast.

They hold meetings and rallies, write letters to the editor, and show up outside the offices of elected officials to voice their displeasure. Organizers have already been hosting “meet the candidates” forums where voters can get a firsthand look at political hopefuls and pepper them with questions. Most importantly, though, they are turning up the volume to the point where citizens are paying attention during a midterm election year which normally sees more apathy than activism.

Is it having any effect? We won’t know for sure, of course, until after the November elections, but the early signs are promising. During a recent meeting, Ed Cox -- top dog in the New York Republican Party -- told us that one of their biggest challenges was identifying all of the congressional races where scarce resources should be allocated. The party is suffering from an embarrassment of riches in terms of potential turnover in NY congressional seats, with as many as seven of them definitely in play. The biggest disappointment for me was the failure of a top-tier candidate to challenge Senator Kirsten Gillibrand -- a seat which looks ripe for the picking.