MIDWEST CITY — Most members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation say they welcome people getting involved in the populist Tea Party movement but doubt it will lead to the formation of a third political party.
"I like them, we agree,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne. "They’re a little intense. They’re a little more focused.”
Lucas said it’s challenging to create, maintain and grow a successful third party.
"Can they create a third party movement?” Lucas said during Saturday’s midwinter meeting of the Oklahoma Press Association. "I have a hard time believing that they can ultimately elect someone president.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said he expects to see Tea Party supporters recruit candidates to run Republican congressional and state races. In November, they are more likely to support Republicans.
"If I were a Democrat, I would be very worried,” Cole said. "Republicans will deal with this probably mostly in the context of their primaries.
"The reality is it’s going to be pretty much in November an anti-Washington, anti-political establishment movement. It will just wrap itself overwhelmingly in favor of Republican candidates,” Cole said.
Members of the delegation said that most Tea Partiers seem upset with Democratic Party spending and efforts to nationalize the health care system.
Hundreds have turned out for rallies across the state, including thousands at three rallies at the state Capitol last year.
More than 600 showed up last weekend for a convention in Nashville, Tenn. Some attending said they see the Tea Party movement as a way to promote the Republican Party’s grassroots while others want a third party.
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, said many involved in the Tea Party movement don’t like the debt allowed in former President George W. Bush’s administration and since President Barack Obama took office.
"They want us to think about the future,” Coburn said. "They don’t like the way Washington works. Quite frankly, I think most of us don’t like the way Washington works.”
Coburn said the Tea Party movement is a healthy undertaking for the country.
"For the first time we’re going to be changing Washington because the American people are going to demand it,” he said. "There’s a rumble out there and it’s high time we have a rumble where we’re held accountable to do what’s in the best long-term interest of this country, not what’s good for any part and not what’s good for any politician.”
U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, said the movement isn’t just Republicans.
U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, said, "It’s a good thing for people to be engaged.”
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