The Florida Tea Party, an officially recognized political party in the state of Florida, was disbanded earlier this month by former party chair Peg Dunmire.
In 2010, the TEA Party gave many state Republicans cause for concern when they filed more than two dozen candidates for office. Most were inactive campaigns for state house of representatives, filed to punish particular Republican legislators. However, the party did get an elected official to convert when Polk County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson changed his registration to join the upstart party and become a candidate for U.S. House of Representatives in District 12. Former chiar Dunmire also raised and spent a significant amount of money in her own campaign for U.S. House, in 2010.
Dunmire captured 4% of the vote in her race, for third place, while Wilkinson polled 11% in his competitive 3-way contest.
Why does it really matter that the party disbanded and was reformed as a new entity? Well, they lost their greatest asset in the process.
Florida ballots list only the candidate’s name for a particular office and a 3-letter code to identify party affiliation. So you might see (DEM) for Democrats, (REP) for Republicans, (LIB) for Libertarians and so on. Unfortunately for the Tea Party, with the new name comes a new ballot designation — any candidates running on their label will now be using the code (FTP) instead of the former (TEA). Voters are unlikely to have any clue that (FTP) means “Florida Tea Party” and the value of the party’s nomination has essentially disappeared.
Original TEA Party founder Fred O’Neal remains the new entity’s general counsel.