Adam Brandon, executive vice president of FreedomWorks, doesn’t think the tea party should separate from the Republican Party and become a third party.
Instead, Brandon, whose Washington, D.C.-based group is one of the major tea party supporters, thinks the tea party should continue making gains within the Republican Party.
“Third parties have not been successful,” Brandon said in a recent phone interview. “I would rather take over the GOP … I see in the next several years a battle for control of the GOP.”
Brandon, 35, who grew up in the Akron area and cut his political teeth during Bryan Williams’ unsuccessful bid for Akron mayor in 2003, will be the featured speaker during the Portage County TEA Party’s annual fundraiser at 6:30 p.m. today. The event will be at Maplewood Career Center in Ravenna.
About 140 people are expected to attend and tickets are $25 each. The event is private and only open to members of the Portage County TEA Party and their guests. To join, visit www.PortageCountyTEAParty.com.
Brandon, who has been with FreedomWorks for eight years and has been in his current position for just over a year, recently spoke to the Beacon Journal in advance of his local appearance, discussing a wide range of topics, including his political background, the IRS targeting scandal and the future of the tea party.
Q: How did you get involved with Williams’ mayoral campaign?
A: I started volunteering at the Summit GOP in high school. I thought I wanted to come back and run for office myself. I wanted to get to know some people — up and comers — and that was Bryan Williams. I went for a cup of coffee with him and got a job offer to run his mayoral campaign. I decided I did not want to run for office. I saw the sacrifice it took him to run. … I wanted to stay active. I had a falling out with the Republican Party during the Bush years. Deficits were out of control. That led me on the route to FreedomWorks.
Q: How did you get started at FreedomWorks?
A: I became press secretary at FreedomWorks, a job I was not qualified for at all. … I was a dyslexic press secretary who doesn’t own a TV and I was supposed to represent the future of the GOP and fiscal conservatives.
Q: What is FreedomWorks’ history?
A: FreedomWorks was founded in 1984. … Its charge was a fiscal conservative, grass-roots group. It was in the right place at the right time when the tea party started. … We like to think of ourselves as a service center, not an umbrella group. We provide people with intel — the best congressman to call, how to set up a campaign.
Q: What are your thoughts on the IRS scandal, which hit home here in Ohio, where several tea party groups were targeted?
A: For years, we were hearing about problems. … We never put two and two together that this is systematic. … We were reminded that, when you give this much power to a bureaucrat, eventually it will be abused. To have people singled out for their politics is very detrimental for our democracy.
Q: What do you see in the future for the tea party?
A: Eventually, the main tea party will go away and slowly take over the GOP. … With Facebook and Twitter, an authentic candidate can connect with voters. The tea-party influence will replace a new donor base, an activist base.
Q: What are the tea party’s core values?
A: Responsibility. It’s about trying to build a constituency who shows up to Washington demanding less.
Q: What’s more important, promoting the philosophy or winning elections?
A: It goes back and forth. You do not win elections unless you buy into the value sets. … Tea partyers go into neighborhoods. I compare it to a one-night stand. You can’t just show up and forget about people the day after the election. It’s about a long-term relationship. The GOP is about winning elections. We’re about building a long-term partnership.
Q: How did you end up as the speaker for the Portage TEA Party event?
A: I know Tom [Zawistowski, executive director of the Portage County TEA Party.] I know these activists. I’ve worked with them on several campaigns, training.
Q: What do you think of the group, which is the most active tea party group in the Akron area?
A: What you see with Portage County is that they’ve built up a system where they’ve got some longevity. They are raising money so they can get involved. … They say the tea party is dead. This group has a program, meetings, agendas, goals. It is part of the political landscape. [U.S. Rep.] David Joyce [R-Russell Twp.] should be nervous. If there is an insurgent candidate, the first place he will go is the Portage County TEA Party.
Q: What will your message be?
A: We are always outspent. If we out-hustle on the ground … politics is changing — the whole system — and you can have direct influence you never used to have. Keep involved. 2014 is coming up. If you don’t have anything going on, there’s a whole nation at stake. People in Kentucky and Nebraska would love to have your help.