The Tea Party and the Republican Party used to be inseparable, especially here in Texas. But now, it seems like the two just can't get along. Everywhere you look, there's conflict brewing between Republican Party stalwarts and the Tea Party rebels.
The latest fight is happening in Brazoria County. Two Tea Party groups, the Alvin Tea Party Patriots and the Lake Jackson Tea Party, had regularly held their meetings in the Alvin Courthouse. All was well and good between the Tea Party and the Republican county officials. But then the Tea Party turned its sights from Democrats to fellow Republicans–the ones they call “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only). When the Tea Party started targeting their own party, county officials weren't having it, and proceeded to ban the Tea Party from using the Alvin Courthouse for meetings.
Of course, the Tea Party didn't take this lying down. They've responded with a lawsuit against several Brazoria County officials, alleging that banning them from the courthouse is a violation of their right to free speech. The conflict is escalating, and the fragile Republican coalition has at last begun to turn on itself.
Read more about the delightful drama after the jump.According to the Alvin Tea Party Patriots, they had been peacefully meeting in the Alvin Courthouse for three years. In late 2012, when the Tea Party began its war on other Republicans, the Republican Party realized the Tea Party had gotten out of their control. So the Brazoria County Commissioners Court looked to Republican District Attorney Jeri Yenne for a way to get rid of the Tea Party. Yenne and the Commissioners Court came up with a new policy stating that all county structures could only be used for public purposes.
They justified their decision by citing their interpretation of the Texas Constitution, stating:
“Pursuant to the Texas Constitution, the county structures may not be reserved or used by any private entities or individuals.”
Based on this policy, the Tea Party groups were told they could no longer meet in the Alvin Courthouse. Other private groups were still allowed to meet in the courthouse, including the Alvin Area Republican Women. (See? The Republican Party is totally cool with women.)
After repeated requests asking Yenne to reconsider, the Tea Party groups decided that conflict was a better route than reconciliation. They sought out the right-wing American Center for Law and Justice for legal counsel. The Tea Party groups' attorney declared that Yenne's decision was an unconstitutional violation of free speech, and sent a letter to the commissioners court demanding that the Tea Party groups be allowed back into the courthouse.
Yenne and the commissioners responded by ignoring the request, which just made the Tea Party madder. They charged the Republican county officials with “tyranny” and sent an angry letter to the Pearland Journal decrying the “repeated abuses at the hands of the County Commissioners and District Attorney Jeri Yenne.” The letter concluded with a call to arms:
“We regretfully announce that we feel that there is no more that can be done outside the courts and ask for your voices to be heard in Commissioners' Court…so that, perhaps, the Commissioners can be reminded that they are our servants, not our rulers.”
And remind them they did. On the same day they protested the Commissioners' Court meeting, the Alvin Tea Party Patriots and the Lake Jackson Tea Party filed suit against the Brazoria County Commissioners and Jeri Yenne. The Tea Party won't be silenced, even if it means turning on their own party officials. For Democrats, that means yet another entertaining showdown as the Texas Republican coalition continues to implode.