State - Lansing 'Tea Party' group submits Michigan candidate list Opponents have until mid-August to challenge authenticity of signatures

By Tim Martin

Associated Press Writer

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- An elusive, self-proclaimed Tea Party organization has told state officials it quietly held a convention this past weekend and nominated a handful of candidates for Michigan's November ballot.

The low-profile move sparked anger among unaffiliated tea partiers and Republicans. They see it as a ploy to trick voters into picking candidates backed by The Tea Party rather than Republican ones, even if those candidates have little in common with traditional tea party values.

A filing with state officials says the convention was held last weekend in Saginaw, but Michigan tea party umbrella organizations say they weren't told about it. Most tea party groups across the state say they don't want their candidates listed as a separate party because third-party efforts in the past have been divisive and ineffective.

"It's an obvious political dirty trick by those who are trying to demoralize, diminish and disrupt the tea party movement," said Doug Till of the Southwest Michigan Tea Party Patriots in Kalamazoo. "It's a lie if they try to present themselves as representing any of the tea party groups that have been active in Michigan in the last 18 months."

Since The Tea Party has never been on the Michigan ballot, it needed to collect more than 38,000 valid signatures to nominate candidates. The group turned in about 59,000 signatures. Opponents have until mid-August to challenge their authenticity.

The Tea Party did not nominate a candidate for governor. But it did select candidates for attorney general, secretary of state, two of Michigan's 15 congressional districts, six of 38 seats in the state Senate and eight of 110 seats in the state House. Some of those seats are expected to be hotly contested between Republican and Democratic candidates this fall.

The Tea Party also selected candidates for the University of Michigan Board of Regents, the State Board of Education and the Oakland County Board of Commissioners.

The Tea Party chairman, Mark Steffek of Reese, has not returned repeated phone calls seeking comment from The Associated Press. Messages were left Tuesday with Steffek and several of The Tea Party nominees, but those calls weren't immediately returned.

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer has said his organization is not involved in the effort to get The Tea Party listed on the ballot.

Steffek has retained Michael Hodge, a self-described Democrat, as his attorney for the ballot issue. Hodge has said Steffek told him that he "disliked Democrats and Republicans alike" and is opposed to policies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In a recent Detroit Free Press article, Steffek -- a retired United Auto Workers shop steward -- said he hadn't attended tea party meetings but described himself as an independent concerned with issues such as free trade, deficit spending and government debt.

Published: Thu, Jul 29, 2010

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