By Anthony Bowe
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Jubilant Tea Party supporters in Denver and Grand Junction praised conservative values and trashed Democrats last week as their colorful signs swayed to blaring Tea Party anthems.
The Tea Party Express, a traveling bus tour starting in Spotlight, Nevada last Saturday, stopped in Grand Junction Wednesday morning and finished on the west steps of the state capitol at 5 p.m.
Missing from the rallies were Tea Party celebrities like Sarah Palin and Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, who kicked off the 42-city tour and will attend the closing ceremonies in Washington D.C. on Tax Day, April 15. But the rhetoric catapulting the movement into mainstream cable TV banter across the nation was the same.
And likewise the faces of many of the vendors who peddle Tea Party campaign buttons and other paraphernalia were likewise the same as at many other rallies over the last few weeks.
“We’re taking America back in 2010. This socialist nightmare must come to an end,” sang Lloyd Marcus, a Tea Party entertainer, to the melody of “New York, New York.”
State Trooper officials in Denver estimated between 500 and 1,000 people attended the rally. Another 800 were reported to attend in Grand Junction.
Robert Muehlberger, 32, captured the theme of the tour urging voters to vote out vulnerable House Democrats on a sign reading, “Markey is a bunch of Malarkey, VOTE HER OUT!!!”
“I disagree with congress and the president’s position on a lot of issues,” Muehlberger said. “This [rally] shows a growing support for the way most of America feels right now.”
The three-bus tour is making stops in cities across the country, mostly following a route set out by Palin, who recently initiated the campaign to vote out 17 House Democrats up for re-election. A map with crosshairs identifying the home districts of those Democrats caused a stir after it was posted on Palin’s Facebook page last week.
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo roused the crowd into a standing ovation as he took the stage. Donning a border patrol hat, green jacket and blue jeans, Tancredo advocated tighter border security.
“I’m telling you it is a war zone down there and we’ve got to recognize it and I know it’s hard to talk about. But please people, it is our country again we’re trying to save and borders matter — citizenship matters — we’re not just residents,” Tancredo said.
Tancredo asked Tea Partiers to sign a petition he is sponsoring for ballot initiative 42, which would disallow congress from accepting a United Nations treaty restricting the right to bear arms. Another petition was circulated in support of Attorney General John Suthers’ opposition to the recently approved federal health care bill.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, who voted no on two health care bills passed last week, said he is proud to represent conservative values.
“If voting against an unconstitutional health care bill is being a member of the party of ‘no,’ then I’m proud to be a member of the party of ‘no,’” the CD 6 Republican said.
Gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, who performed better than expected in the GOP caucus straw poll last month, said the Tea Party movement has strengthened his campaign.
“It’s energizing,” Maes said between handshakes with supporters. “A year ago I would have walked through this crowd and nobody would have known who I was, and now most everybody recognizes me.”
Tea Party Express entertainers praised military veterans before lamenting Obama policies like the bailout and health care.
“We the people will not shut up,” said Hilary Welborn, 19, who attended the rally with four fellow College Republicans from the University of Wyoming in Laramie. “It’s very depressing that our country has strayed from its conservative values. We’re out here today to get our voices heard.”