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Party time: New political group sprouts up in east metro

Woodbury resident Jake Duesenberg spoke Thursday, April 4, at the inaugural meeting of the East Metro Tea Party. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

For Jake Duesenberg, it's never too late to hold a party.

Though the Tea Party movement saw its biggest surges more than three years ago, Duesenberg, a Woodbury resident, last week unveiled the East Metro Tea Party.

As he sees it, the moment is just as urgent now as it's ever been to arrange the organization.

"The federal debt's not getting any lower," Duesenberg said.

On Thursday, April 4, the group held its inaugural meeting at the Machine Shed in Lake Elmo, where attendees were joined by GOP House lawmaker Kathy Lohmer and 2012 congressional candidate Tony Hernandez.

The two-hour meeting glommed together moments of politics, American history, economics and levity. Duesenberg said the latter is an important component - especially in trying to reach out to younger members - that he hopes to continue as the East Metro Tea Party evolves.

"We're going to have a fun time, that's for sure," he said.

But, Duesenberg pointed out, it's not all fun and games. He and others at the meeting are stone-cold serious about issues like limited government, free-market capitalism and individualism.

"Not this reliance on government," Duesenberg said.

Like other Tea Parties, the east metro group is not affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic Party. Duesenberg couched the group's structure more as a social club.

"Only our special interest is in free markets, fiscal responsibility and individualism," he said.

It's possible members could organize protests on key issues, or attend committee hearings at the Capitol, Duesenberg said.

For now, the group's direction continues taking form. Duesenberg, a local financial adviser, said he expects it will educate members about the local caucus system and foster more grassroots organizing. There aren't plans to turn the party into a political action committee, Duesenberg noted.

"(It's) just a meet-up group to encourage people to get involved in the political process," he explained.

The concept drew the support of Senate District 53 Republican Chairman Joe Salmon. He was among the 80 or-so in attendance at the Machine Shed and counted himself among the East Metro Tea Party's supporters.

The more people involved in the political process, the better, Salmon said.

"We have an obligation to let more people know what's happening," he said.

As for the group's genesis, Duesenberg - who also works as membership chairman for SD 53 Republicans - credited a spirited discussion among college buddies.

"We were enjoying a nice glass of whiskey and discussing politics," he said, adding that someone suggested the establishment of a Tea Party. "I said, 'All right, I'm starting a Tea Party.'"

Woodbury native David Benner, who spoke about colonial American history at the inaugural meeting, joins Duesenberg in group leadership, along with Jefferson Olson.

Other supporters include Lohmer, who told the crowd "I'm one of you" and reminded attendees how she wrapped her car in the U.S. Constitution during the last campaign season.

"You can't get more Tea Party than wrapping your car in the Constitution," the Lake Elmo Republican said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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