Mrs. Kent, who joined Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd and Upshur County Pct. 1 Comm. James Crittenden in addressing the audience from the Upshur County Courthouse’s north steps, received a standing ovation at the end of her 29-minute speech, in which she quoted at length from Patrick Henry’s 1775 “give me liberty or give me death” address and embraced conservative principles.
U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler), who is opposed by Libertarian Charles Parkes III for reelection in November, unexpectedly attended the gathering, but did not speak.
Rally coorganizer Chuck Mears, who estimated the turnout at 150, told the audience before the featured speakers addressed it that the TEA Party movement’s goals are to “reduce the size of the bloated federal government,” attempt to balance the budget without increasing already-”burdensome” taxes, and adhere to the Constitution.
Although called a “party,” the nationwide movement is not a political party in the sense Democrats and Republicans are, and does not nominate candidates for public office. The crowd here displayed a smattering of such signs as “No Socialism,” “Don’t Tax Me Bro’!”, and one man carried a yellow flag bearing the message “Don’t Tread on Us.”
Judge Kent, who began her address with a long excerpt from Henry’s speech, charged that Congress had decided “to lie down with those who would enslave us,” and that the federal government’s “oppression is just as real” as if British warships were on the coast off Boston, a reference to the circumstances surrounding the Revolutionary War.
Americans did not want the health care legislation, but “our Congress did not care,” she charged. Not yet aware that Gohmert was in the audience, the former judge exempted him from that charge, saying “he was on the side of the people,” but that his voice of opposition was like “yelling into a hurricane.”
“Its (the health care law’s) purpose is to enslave us. It’s about power, money, and control,” charged Mrs. Kent, now a Tyler attorney who was judge of the 114th District Court in that city for 24 years.
“They (those in power) have already started controlling our health....They’re going to control who lives and who dies,” she declared.
Mrs. Kent further criticized a 20 percent tax to be levied on tanning salons, a planned reduction in Medicaid payments, and the creation of more agencies, taxes and fees.
“We are going to create more jobs in this country. They’re going to work for the government against us,” Mrs. Kent added.
For the first time ever, the former judge said, citizens must buy health insurance, which she termed “simply a tax on living” and which is unconstitutional for the federal government to impose.
“If the law does not allow them (those in power) to do what they want, they just re-interpret the law,” Mrs. Kent said, noting several states are challenging the health care legislation’s Constitutionality.
She then offered the audience three types of action it could take: political, personal and “most importantly, spiritual.”
Under political action, she drew applause when she declared, “Throw them (officials who disagree with the TEA Party) out of office.” She also urged those present to go to areas where the representatives are beholden to “money, power, and corruption” and “raise up a grassroots cry for freedom.”
She said the forces opposed by the TEA Party want to control education, but “we take control by controlling the school boards.” She also urged the crowd to challenge “all taxes that take away your freedom.”
In some cases, governmental work “might be a good program, but we can’t afford it anymore,” so government must “do with less,” Mrs. Kent said.
Explaining “personal” action, the former judge advised, “Get out of debt. Control your utter dependence on the next paycheck,” or government will tell you what to do, she warned.
Saying private companies must not be beholden to government, the speaker advised them, “Instead of sending your jobs to Mexico and China, bring them here to this country.”
As for spiritual action, she quoted the Biblical story in Mark 5:23-24 of a woman who “had faith and she acted on that faith...Shall we have faith and act on that faith and yell?”
“Give us liberty, we pray to God,” she said in conclusion.
Byrd, who spoke briefly, said the two places where voters could be the most effective are “the jury box, the ballot box,” and decried the low turnout for the recent party primary elections in the county.
The district attorney, who was unopposed for reelection in the March 2 Republican primary, termed it sad that fewer than 18 percent of registered voters participated in it and less than that voted in the Democratic primary. He said under eight percent voted in the April 13 GOP runoff.
“If it is voter apathy, then we must recruit better candidates...We have to do a better job in Upshur County,” Byrd said, drawing applause. He has no opponent for reelection in November.
Crittenden asked the audience for a show of hands of those who would attend night meetings of the county commissioners court. Several raised theirs (a petition for night meetings was on a table at the rally).
Crittenden noted the closeness of several of the Republican primary and runoff races, telling the crowd “everybody’s vote does count.” He also said he wanted more attendance at commissioners’ meetings.
Gilmer insurance agent Roy Brown, who introduced Byrd, meantime told the crowd “I am 75 years old, and I’ve never been politically active...I want to get involved.”
Earlier, Brown had told The Mirror, “It’s frightening to see what’s happening in America. It’s no longer ‘we, the people. It’s we, the Congress.’”
Wayne Arnold, another of the rally’s organizers, introduced Judge Kent. Before the speaking, the Lewis Family Band of Kilgore provided musical entertainment; First Baptist Church Pastor Todd Kaunitz led prayer; and John Melvin Dodd, wearing a Scoutmaster uniform, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mears expressed satisfaction with the turnout at the rally, noting that there were several events taking place nearby the same day. The gathering was held under cloudy skies, but rain didn’t fall until later in the day.