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While a large number belong to national Tea Party organizations, many Tea Party members also belong to one or more local Tea Party chapters. These groups help create an intricate web of Tea Party organizations across the state.

More than 80 local Tea Party chapters were active in North Carolina at the peak of Tea Party activity in 2010-2012.  While attrition, internal conflicts and organizational re-shuffling have reduced the number, 57 different local Tea Party groups still remain active in 2014.

The network of state-level groups is strong. These state level groups, like the North Carolina Tea Party and NC Freedom, act as networking hubs.

Regional groups, like the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party and the Yadkin Valley Tea Party, add another layer of networking and organizing support.

County level groups, such as the Citizens for Liberty First in Wayne County and the Stokes County Tea Party, add a tertiary layer of organizing. Some groups serve larger, rural areas. Others help coordinate multiple local groups. Several of the county level Tea Party groups overlap with county level Republican organizations and GOP Women’s Clubs.

The majority, however, are local Tea Party groups. The size of these local groups can range from the over 1500 members of the Triangle Conservatives Unite! (We Surround Them), to a few dozen active with Will of the People Rockingham.

With a few notable exceptions, it should be observed that Tea Party groups in North Carolina have not relied on outside funding for their support. Those exceptions include the North Carolina chapter of FreedomWorks, which is supported by the national organization.  And the Tea Party of Henderson County received a $9000 grant from Tea Party Patriots on October 18, 2012.[17]

Outside of that financial contribution, the Tea Party Patriots footprint in North Carolina has begun to wane. Only seven active local Tea Party chapters are listed as local-affiliated groups of the Tea Party Patriots, the national Tea Party faction most associated with grassroots groups.  IREHR data analysis has revealed that the number of Tea Party Patriots’ local-affiliated groups plunged by nearly 90 percent nationally.[18]

As noted previously, FreedomWorks has a much bigger footprint in the state than the Tea Party Patriots due to the presence of a statewide chapter, and having been organizationally active in the state before the rise of the Tea Party. Despite that, just seven of the active local Tea Party groups are affiliated with FreedomWorks.

Several of the leaders of local Tea Party groups are active in national Tea Party factions. For instance, Catherine Oxford, a leader in the Charlotte Tea Party group CAUTION, is a member of four national groups – 1776 Tea Party, FreedomWorks, Patriot Action Network, and Tea Party Nation.  Linda Harper of the Goldsboro-based Citizens for Liberty First in Wayne County is a member of FreedomWorks, Patriot Action Network, Tea Party Nation, and Tea Party Patriots. Peggy Smetana of the Pinehurst-based Moore Tea Citizens is a member of FreedomWorks and Tea Party Nation.  Rusty Snyder of the Asheboro-based Randolph Tea Party Inc. is a member of FreedomWorks and the Patriot Action Network.  Jodi Riddleberger of Conservatives for Guilford County is a member of Patriot Action Network and Tea Party Patriots. Steve Carter of Alamance Conservatives, Jennifer Stepp of the Tea Party of Greater Gaston County, and Velvet Shelton of the Surry County Tea Party Patriots are all members of FreedomWorks.

These local Tea Party groups also help members become more politically active and engaged than non-Tea Party members.  For example, local groups, like the Caldwell Tea Party, have been regularly holding meetings with candidates for lower offices – from candidates for judicial office, to school board candidates, all the way down to the candidates for the Soil and Water Conservation District.[19]

North Carolina Tea Party Chapters


Next: Beyond Policy – North Carolina Tea Party’s Racially Divisive Posture

Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind

Author Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind

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