The South Carolina Tea Party Coalition is hosting its first-ever state Tea Party Convention in Myrtle Beach prior to the GOP presidential debate.
Joe Dugan, state coordinator for the S.C. Patriots and chairman of the Myrtle Beach Tea Party, said there will be 500 seats available at the Sprinmaid Beach Resort in Myrtle Beach for the convention, which runs Jan. 15 and 16.
“I was going to limit it to 500. We’re almost there now,” said Dugan.
Jameson Cunningham, with Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, said Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are scheduled to appear, as are U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint and Gov. Nikki Haley.
Dugan added that Gingrich and Santorum have confirmed they’ll be appearing at the convention. The presidential hopefuls are set to go on at 3 and 3:25 p.m. on Monday, the 16th.
Gingrich and Santorum will be given 20 minutes each, and they can use the timeslots any way they wish, Dugan said.
The convention kicks off at noon Sunday, with remarks from DeMint and U.S. Congresman Tim Scott.
On Monday Haley will start things off shortly after 9 a.m.
Despite the number of political names on the roster, Dugan hopes attendees will get more out of the convention.
“This is meant to be an educational convention, rather than a political convention,” he said.
As for who is attending, Dugan said the convention was never opened to the public, but to grassroots organizations from across the state.
Cunningham added that these groups would come together to share ideas, encourage the formation of new Tea Party group and provide an educational forum from nationally known experts.
For instance, on Sunday night, a counter-terrorism expert is scheduled to speak. The co-founders of the National Tea Party Patriots are also going to give a talk.
“I hope, for one thing, to have members of the coalition and members of other Tea Party groups in the state ... to have a chance to meet one another face-to-face,” Dugan said.
And with national and international media in town for GOP presidential debate, Dugan hopes to show other states how active the Tea Party is in the Palmetto State.
“There are a lot of reports that say the Tea Party has gone away,” he said. “I would state that the first phase of the Tea Party is probably behind us.”
That first phase, Dugan added, were large rallies that attracted lots of media attention. Phase two consists of networking and preparing for this year’s presidential race, which he said is the most important in the country’s history.
Dugan said the country has lost the respect of the world, and cultural decay has destroyed a lot of America’s greatness.
“We’re either going to get that back, or we’re going to become a second-rate nation,” he said.
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