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Kadner: A new chapter for the Tea Party?

Robbie Katherine founder SW Chicago   Suburban TeParty. | Supplied photo

Robbie Katherine, founder of SW Chicago & Suburban Tea Party. | Supplied photo

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Updated: February 9, 2014 6:27AM



Robbie Katherine, of Oak Lawn, claims that she has founded a new chapter of the Tea Party, and gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner will be among the speakers at its first meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall, 9514 S. 52nd Ave., Oak Lawn.

“I am founder of the SW Chicago & Suburban Tea Party,” Katherine stated in an email. “This is a new Tea Party.”

One of the problems, and advantages, of the Tea Party movement is that there is no central office to contact to verify whether someone is a legitimate representative of the organization.

So I called Steve Balich, a founder of the Homer Lockport Tea Party, to ask if he had heard of Katherine or her group. Balich was unaware of them but noted that anyone can start a Tea Party chapter and that each chapter is often unique in the issues it emphasizes.

But Balich was irritated that Rauner, a billionaire investor who has emerged as the early leader in the Republican primary field, allegedly had confirmed an appearance in Oak Lawn.

“We’re holding a candidates forum on Tuesday night, the next night, and it is sponsored by the Will County Tea Party Alliance and about a dozen Republican organizations from New Lenox to Plainfield Township, and Rauner hasn’t confirmed,” Balich said.

“His people have said he has other commitments, although we contacted them three months ago. Why would he agree to appear at a meeting held by a brand new Tea Party chapter no one has ever heard of and not attend ours? What’s he afraid of?”

Balich agreed to do some more checking on Katherine and her group and get back to me.

In the meantime, I interviewed Katherine, who told me she has no previous political party involvement and has never been a political organizer of any kind.

“I have a blog site, and some of us were chatting about the 3rd Congressional District race (Dan Lipinski, a Democrat, is the incumbent), and we wondering why there wasn’t a chapter of the Tea Party active in the area,” she said. “No one wanted to come forward and start it up, so I sort of volunteered.

“I think some group needs to stand for traditional conservative values, for the Constitution, for what made this country great. I believe that’s what the Tea Party represents.”

She said she recruited about 12 volunteers through social media and is hoping the Monday night candidates forum will jump-start her chapter. In her email, she mentions that she has “teamed up” with Worth Township GOP Committeeman Shaun Murphy to arrange the Monday forum “as I am new and need some help being known.”

When I asked Katherine who was paying for the VFW Hall, she said, “Shaun Murphy and the Worth Township Organization.”

Katherine said she works part time and is taking a break from working for insurance companies on workmen’s compensation claims. Asked for her age, Katherine said she is in her fifties. She said she has three children, ranging in age from 16 to 31.

Her telephone voicemail and email addresses identify her as Robbie Segina, which she said used to be her name but that it recently has changed.

When Balich, a Will County Board member, got back to me, he said he reached out to other area Tea Party leaders and no one had heard of the new Tea Party chapter in Oak Lawn. He again stressed that new chapters are emerging and there is no official sanctioning body for them.

“Some of us focus on financial issues, like the one I founded, and others are much more focused on social issues,” Balich said. “Each chapter sort of develops its own issues.”

That, of course, can be a problem for potential candidates seeking the endorsement of the Tea Party.

Balich added that it was his understanding that Republican candidates attending the forum Monday night had been told it was a Worth Township Republican event, not a Tea Party forum.

Katherine later would point out that she had emphasized the meeting was being sponsored jointly by the Worth Township Republican Organization and her new Tea Party chapter.

She said among the Republican candidates who have confirmed their appearance are Rauner, U.S. Senate candidates Jim Oberweis and Doug Truax, attorney general candidate Paul Schimpf and Bob Grogan, a candidate for state treasurer.

“After each guest speaks, the floor will be open for a Q&A to each candidate,” Katherine said.

I asked her if there was a website for the new Tea Party chapter.

“No, we don’t have a website yet,” she said. “We don’t have anything. We’re just starting out.”

The Will County Tea Party Alliance is hosting a forum for Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidates at 7 p .m. Tuesday at Plainfield Central High School. Confirmed for that event are state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady and Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford.

“You would think that a candidate like Rauner would want to be there to let people know where he stands on the issues,” Balich said.

Attempts to contact Rauner’s campaign for comment or confirmation that he will attend the event on Monday night in Oak Lawn were unsuccessful. But Murphy said Rauner had confirmed and that the Monday session was a joint event with the Worth Township GOP and the Tea Party and each recruited some of the speakers.

The Will County Tea Party movement, originally launched in Joliet, has attracted thousands of people to events in the past. Balich, however, said that due to the inclement weather and waning enthusiasm he anticipates a crowd of about 500 Tuesday.

“People are discouraged,” he said. “They just seem to feel they can’t bring about change. I say you’ve got to keep trying or nothing is ever going to change.”

When the Tea Party movement began, its members told me they were neither Republicans or Democrats, just citizens who wanted to make a difference.

Obviously, that has changed.



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