In Ohio on Tuesday, leaders of Washington-based FreedomWorks teamed up with local tea party leaders for a press conference supporting a Senate bill that would, like the legislation at the heart of the Wisconsin protests, drastically curtail the collective-bargaining rights of public employees. Meanwhile, in Tallahassee on the opening day of Florida's legislative session, activists took to the streets surrounding the state capitol in defense of Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s budget proposal.
“They’re out there right now,” a spokesperson for Scott’s Tallahassee office said on Tuesday. “I’ve been hearing them all day, and the governor is aware that they’re happening.”
The rally was designed as a counterprotest. Responding to plans for an “Awake the State” rally by a coalition of liberal groups opposed to Scott’s budget, Laurie Newsom of the Gainesville Tea Party last week called for participants at a “Save Our State” rally. “It has come to my attention that unions are shipping 8-10 thousand people into Tallahassee on March 8,” she wrote. “Can you take off March 8?”
If not, antiunion protesters will have another opportunity this week. Fresh off a weekend visit from Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., the South Florida Tea Party will hold a rally on Thursday.
In Ohio, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, FreedomWorks’s chairman, is rallying the troops for the group’s latest counteroffensive in the budget saga. This time it’s in support of Republican Gov. John Kasich, who is the most recent recipient of FreedomWorks’s “Legislative Entrepreneur Award” for economic conservatism.
“It’s our mission to unite and mobilize a grassroots constituency in support of legislative entrepreneurs like Governor Kasich who look for long-term solutions instead of nearsighted gimmicky fixes,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said in a statement.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, another conservative group plans to begin airing television ads on Wednesday targeting the union protesters. The commercial, produced by the National Republican Trust PAC, portrays unionized public employees and their "fat-cat union bosses" as refusing to cooperate in efforts to cut budget costs and says they should "get real and get back to the jobs they're lucky to have."
Scott Wheeler, executive director of the PAC, said that the ad will air on Wisconsin broadcast and cable television this week, and that he may make similar ad buys in Florida and Ohio. (View the ad below.)