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Faces of the Tea Party - From apathy to activism

For most of her life, Anna Kroyman ignored politics - it was just too boring.
"I never voted, I never paid attention, I never cared," says Kroyman. But all that has changed. This year Kroyman, 60, organized a Tea Party group in her town of Monticello, Ind., establishing a group that now has more than 200 members.

The event that awakened her political awareness - and she remembers it clearly because it came as a shock - was the Senate impeachment hearings of former President Bill Clinton. She heard two words emanate from the living room -- oral sex -- dropped the dishes in the sink and went into the living room where her boyfriend, Jack Van Vulkenburg, 65, was watching TV.

"It was like, are you kidding me? This is what's happening in our White House... (Bill Clinton) was like Ferris Bueller in the White House.... I thought it was hysterical," says Kroyman, who runs a telephone sales business out of her home.

She became a political junkie, following the hearings, watching the news, watching C-SPAN and memorizing the legislators' names. For the first time in her life, at age 50, she voted and exercised her conservative leanings.

After the last election she decided to step it up a notch, because she believes the country is "going down a dangerous path."

"We're heading into a socialistic system here," says Kroyman. "What we are experiencing now is the fall of democracy."

She says the catalyst that led her to found the Tea Party group was the rant by CNBC's Rick Santelli in February 2009 expressing outrage over an Obama administration policy to help distressed homeowners, even if they had bought more house than they could actually afford. The rant went viral on the Internet, where it was embraced by conservatives and derided by liberals as political theater.

At Van Valkenburg's suggestion Kroyman started a Website named "C-Corn.com"( http://c-corn.com/) -- as in ACORN for conservatives - not anticipating how fervently she would pursue the idea.

"I hike the ball, and she runs with it," says Van Valkenburg, a retired Chicago policeman who describes himself as a lifelong "anti-liberal."

She convened the first meeting of White County Tea Party Patriots at the local USA Family Restaurant in January with just eight people. Now the group has 232 members, Kroyman says.
The group regularly hosts political candidates to quiz them on their positions. They don't endorse candidates - like many other Tea Party groups the group is registered as a 527 educational nonprofits and thus prohibited from doing so. They do press for core values - limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets - that she believes have been undermined by Congress and the president.

At a White County Tea Party event on Friday, held in a meeting room at the local utility company, Kroyman and Van Valkenburg passed the microphone among the 100 or so people who came to question Dan Coats, the Republican candidate for Senate. He fielded questions on immigration, value-added-tax and the health care package while his wife gave what was billed as an "impromptu" talk about her family's conservative values.

The group has hosted many of the candidates who will be on the ballot here, including Rep. Brad Ellsworth, a Democrat. Kroyman says she has repeatedly invited Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, but he hasn't accepted.

"Donnelly is telling us who he is by not coming," she says angrily.
Kroyman did not have time to attend a statewide anti-"Obamacare" rally held in Indianapolis over the weekend because she had other local Tea Party events to run in coming days before elections.

"Now I realize the seriousness of the matter," says Kroyman. "Now I'm looking for (candidates) who want to preserve the Constitution, who love this country, and save it from people who don't."

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