Pittsburgh will not host a Tea Party rally this Independence Day weekend, for the first time since the conservative movement launched last year.
There were Pittsburgh Tax Day rallies in April of this year and last, and a July 4 Tea Party in Schenley Park last summer, as well as bus trips last year to rally against the health care reform bill. But neither the Pittsburgh Tea Party Movement nor the Pittsburgh 9.12 Project list any events this weekend, while rallies are going on in Philadelphia and, closer to home, Greensburg.
The leaders of the two main Pittsburgh groups did not reply to emails this week seeking comment, and Tea Party activist and 14th District Republican candidate Melissa Haluszczak did not return a phone message on July 4 events. A national Tea Party event scheduled for mid-July in Las Vegas was pushed back to October, partially due to concerns about the city's heat -- so is interest wilting in temperate Pittsburgh as well? (See UPDATE here.)
Republicans say the movement's energy is instead getting plugged into campaigns this important midterm election year. The Republican Committee of Allegheny County drew 47 volunteers to a training session on phone-banking and other grassroots campaigning methods last Saturday, RCAC executive director Chris Metz said, and 93 people came to the recent grand opening of its new "Victory Center" campaign space in Green Tree.
Longtime GOP volunteer Bob Howard from Fox Chapel said he has seen a boost in volunteer help in local races lately, almost all of it from Tea Party participants. "I'm still encouraged by what Tea Party people are doing, even if I don't see a major event in the Pittsburgh area," he said. "I think they're saving their powder for September and October, when it really counts."
And it's not to say there are no political events for local Republicans this weekend -- gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett is going to Independence Day parades in Brentwood and Canonsburg on Saturday, and in Ross Township on Sunday.
Photo: Post-Gazette. More than 1,000 attend a Schenley Park Tea Party on July 4, 2009.