When Nathan Mintz attended his first big tea party a year ago, he had no idea he would soon seek to swap his days as an aerospace engineer for a job under the Capitol dome.
"Spending a majority of my time in politics wasn't something I initially planned, but I felt like I had to do something," Mintz said. "Once you get so involved, you're committed. You feel like you want to see things through."
Now Mintz, the sole Republican running in a Democrat-heavy Assembly district in Los Angeles, has joined a growing pool of tea party activists hoping to convert the energy of what began as a fringe movement into votes at the polls.
Just a year after staging its first Tax Day rallies across the country, the tea party movement has produced its own crop of candidates running under the Republican flag in California, with activists competing in a handful of state legislative and congressional races, as well as the GOP gubernatorial primary.
Its grass-roots and decentralized origins have become a challenge for organizers seeking to bring momentum to the movement, as single-issue candidates drawn to the cause threaten to distract from its stated goal of restoring fiscal responsibility.
Still, more establishment candidates appear to be tapping into the energy they find in the state and national network of tea party activists. Many plan to make campaign stops at today's Tax Day protests.
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