State tea party activists focus on Oklahoma City Council elections

Two incumbent Oklahoma City Council members will face election challenges from candidates backed by the Sooner Tea Party.
BY MICHAEL BAKER Published: February 1, 2011

Councilman Brian Walters will be opposed by David Greenwell, a certified public accountant, in Ward 5, which covers the central section of south Oklahoma City.

In the Sooner Tea Party newsletter, Walters was identified as the only conservative on the council. The tea party will back Walters but has not yet given financial help, Gerhart said.

In central Oklahoma City's Ward 6 and northwest Oklahoma City's Ward 8, the Sooner Tea Party has urged its supporters to rally for candidates Van Manen and Hearron against incumbents Salyer and Ryan. Holstein filed late Monday for the Ward 6 post but could not be reached for comment.

The challengers

Gerhart said it's the first time the Sooner Tea Party has given support in a municipal race, but it follows a national trend. Gerhart said the support of Van Manen and Hearron is about whom tea partiers believe can do a better job.

“You really can't say the tea party is partisan,” he said. “What we stand for is the Constitution.”

Van Manen and Hearron admit they talk often and have a lot in common but stop short of saying they should be viewed as running together. Both men are members of Windsor Hills Baptist Church. Van Manen is music director at the church, where Sooner Tea Party meetings have been scheduled.

Van Manen and Hearron have similar websites, each giving a nod to the Sooner Tea Party. Van Manen's has a graphic with the phrase “Bring the Tea to OKC.” Hearron's has a graphic with “Sooner Tea Party” in red, white and blue.

The state tea party's political action committee will help fund campaign literature, and members will help with precinct walking, Gerhart said.

“We each have our own campaign,” Van Manen said. “We see each other all the time, and we compare notes, but his campaign is separate from mine.”

Given the similarities of the two candidates and the financial backing of the tea party, Ryan worries about the connections among the two candidates. “I'm a little concerned about the idea of a slate,” he said. “I think that's maybe not the healthiest way to approach city government.”

Ryan said he has some high regard for what the tea party movement has done nationally by bringing attention to debt issues but is not sure it should have a role in city government.

“I'm less understanding of what they think their role in city government should be,” he said. “Right now, we can disagree without being disagreeable, which I think is a real advantage we have on our city council.”

Salyer also worries about preconceived agendas.

“I would express concern about any agenda that doesn't directly focus on making sure that city government runs efficiently, is transparent for its citizens and listens to the voice of the people that live here,” she said.

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