York is a small city in east-central Nebraska, about 40 miles west of Lincoln. It's your common midwest community. It's Tea Party country! Nebraska is pretty conservative state. We're also a smaller state in population. So over the past two years there hasn't been much challenge or hate towards the Tea Party movement here, at least not the extent that we see elsewhere. That changed this week.
The York County Tea Party scheduled at event at the York County Courthouse for Thursday, October 28th. The rally featured candidates and speakers, nothing out of the norm. The York County Tea Party has gone to great lengths to stress their non-partisan nature and any candidate from any party was welcome to attend or speak at the event. They don't even endorse candidates. Their web site even explains the nature of the group. http://www.yorkteaparty.com/ I'd think most reasonable people would have no problem with such an event taking place. YCTP even had the necessary permits.
However, the Nebraska Democratic Party would have none of it. On October 27th Jeremy Jensen of the YCTP was served notice of the following complaint.
Followed by this notice from the York County Attorney.
Is the Nebraska Democratic Party correct? At first glance it might appear so. Afterall the courthouse is a public place, and a polling place.
Not so fast. The NDP left out an important detail. The timeframe of the event. The York County Courthouse closes at 5 PM. The rally was scheduled for 6 PM.
Jensen and other York County Tea Party leaders quickly jumped into action. They called several former leaders at the state level with legal experience for their opinions. Jensen's understanding of the law is, "To prevent people from campaigning close to a polling place, while the polls are open." The legal minds he contacted agreed.
Brad Stevens of Americans for Prosperity in Lincoln also agreed. AFP helped organize the event. Stevens provided the following statement as a disclaimer for the group's event. "The York County Tea Party is not an actual registered political party, and does not desire to be. We are a group of bi-partisan citizens who are concerned with making good public policy at the local, state and national level. We are not here to support any political party, or any candidate. We are here to talk about the important issues facing our state and nation and how we can get involved to promote limited government and free-market enterprise. Let me reiterate, we are about issues, not candidates, and would appreciate your help. Please do not bring campaign stickers, yard signs or banners to this event."
Finally late in the afternoon Jensen recieved the call the group had been waiting for. Neil Ericson, Deputy Secretary of State, confirmed that the time of the event did matter. He was not notified of the rally start time and had assumed that it was taking place during the day. (Interesting how NDP left that information out of their complaint.) Thus, Ericson determined that the event was not in violation of any law, and further more stated that even if campaigning was part of the program the event would still be legal.
Shortly after County Attorney William Sutter issued the following to the YCTP and the NDP.
The event took place on Thursday without any problems. TV out of Lincoln covered the event. Even the New York Times ran a story. Pictures from the rally can be found on the YCTP web site. Here's some good footage from the event. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2u5uj_hUfsY
But....that's not the end of this story! According to the story run by Channel 10/11 out of Lincoln, the NDP plans to pursue action towards the York County Tea Party. http://www.1011now.com/home/headlines/106333289.html?storySection=story
We'll keep you posted...