Commentary: 9-11 was just another day for tea party politicking

For most of America, Sept. 11 included reverent ceremony, remembrance and most of all, prayer.

But for a new Burleson group calling itself a Tea Party, it was just another day for partisan politics.

The Texas Patriots Tea Party staged a caravan from its Burleson base to near Waco. There, Republican congressional candidate Bill Flores of Bryan accepted the group's endorsement and asked for donations.

The Waco Tribune-Herald counted a crowd of 60.

That did not include the leader of the Waco Tea Party, business consultant Toby Marie Walker.

"We did not plan any events today out of respect," she wrote on Facebook a few hours after Burleson Republican Rex Russell introduced Flores in a Bellmead parking lot.

Walker added: "We wanted to keep the day as one of nonpolitical events. We encourage you to visit a fire or police station."

Five weeks before voting begins in the Nov. 2 election, the Texas Patriots Tea Party is repackaging the movement as a military and religious Republican crusade, staging its own events in towns that already have active Tea Party groups.

In an example of the national debate between fiscal and social conservatives, the groups don't even agree whether limited government and responsible spending should be the only Tea Party issues.

The debate fractured the former Burleson Tea Party.

The Texas Patriots are led by early Burleson Tea Party participant Baker Hughes.

On the group's website, www.texaspatriotsteaparty.org, he writes that he "will have 'No King But King Jesus!'" and calls for others to "'fall in' with other foot soldiers and engage this battle."

The website also prominently lists an event for the conspiracy-obsessed John Birch Society.

Angela Cox of Godley founded the Burleson Tea Party. She now leads a Johnson County group allied with Waco.

Both Cox and Walker said by phone Tuesday that Tea Parties should educate but not endorse and should completely avoid social issues.

Cox said Tea Parties "should not bestow any kind of religious authority."

Walker said Tea Parties are effective "because we stick to our core issues."

Her group favors conservatives, she said, but "we don't think 9-11 is a time to campaign."

She said that as the Texas Patriots "mature as a group, they'll understand."

They've got five weeks.