Patch: Not Quite A Tea Party, But Close
By Jayne Keedle
Recently, JR Romano, Connecticut State Director of the nonprofit political organization Americans For Prosperity (AFP), issued the following invitation to local residents to attend the inaugural meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut chapter of AFP at Waterford Public Library.
“We encourage everyone who is fed up with economic policies set in Hartford that are driving families and businesses out of our state to attend and learn what we can do to put Connecticut back on the path to economic prosperity,” Romano stated. “We can have an economically prosperous state but it is up to us to ensure that our state changes course before more families and businesses flee Connecticut for better economic climates in other states.”
About 20 people turned out for the founding meeting, including a couple of members of Groton’s RTM, former Republican candidate for Congress Daria Novak of Madison, and Waterford resident Bud Fay, who was the driving force behind the initial meeting. But what they may have lacked in numbers they more than made up for with enthusiasm.
For the uninitiated, AFP describes itself as “a nationwide organization of citizen leaders committed to advancing every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity. AFP believes reducing the size and scope of government is the best way to safeguard individual productivity and prosperity for all Americans. AFP educates and engages citizens in support of restraining state and federal government growth and returning government to its constitutional limits.”
It sounds a lot like the Tea Party but there’s a key difference. AFP doesn’t tackle social issues. It’s sole focus is fiscal.
A number of attendees at the inaugural meeting were disappointed to hear that the group wouldn’t be tackling issues such as gun control, which they opposed, but Fay said it was the organization’s financial orientation that attracted him to AFP.
“I’ve been involved for about three years with the Tea Party and I found this organization to be the only one that truly doesn’t care what political party you belong to,” said Fay. “They’re an extremely democratic organization consisting largely of conservatives and independents and unaffiliated voters who are developing real concerns for the country. The state and federal debt is just ridiculous.”
The other thing that appeals to Fay is that AFP is action-oriented and set up to “help people organize to influence legislators,” he said. ”We are gathered together to do what we can.”
As Romano explained it, AFP has developed a variety of strategies, from phone banks, Facebook and email campaigns, to twitter brigades, designed to influence public opinion and persuade politicians to their way of thinking. Romano told the group he would be offering training on how to do all of that.
The organization is selective about which issues it chooses to get behind, Romano said, focussing on legislative issues where it feels it can have the most impact. On a national level, that includes lobbying for tax reform and against “Obamacare.”
The newly-formed Southeastern Connecticut chapter would have a local focus, with members determining which issues they want to hone in on. All the campaigns are action-oriented and run at a grassroots level, Romano said.
Although the initial turnout was small, Romano said he thinks Southeastern Connecticut is fertile ground for growing the AFP in Connecticut.
“I’m dedicated to this and passionate about it and I truly believe that this part of the state is the lynchpin,” said Romano. “You’re going to see this room grow.”