Article and Photo of Mark Steffek:
Mark Steffek (photo from Detroit Free Press)
Posted: 1:33 p.m. July 16, 2010 | Updated: 4:53 p.m. July 16, 2010
Man behind Tea Party in Michigan says his efforts are for real
Mark Steffek says his political slate isn't Democratic ploy
By Dawson Bell
Free Press Lansing Bureau
The reclusive leader of the petition drive to create an official Tea Party in Michigan said today he is an authentic
part of the movement to rein in big government and undertook the organizing effort to protect his children and grandchildren.
But Mark Steffek,a retired UAW shop steward who agreed to a telephone interview after weeks of avoiding the media, declined to identify the source of tens of thousands ofdollars used to fund the petition drive, other people involved in the effort orany candidates the party might place on the ballot.
Steffek’s TeaParty, operating out of his home in the Thumb area, submitted 60,000petition signatures to state election officials Wednesday, well over the number required to qualify the party’s candidates for the ballot in November.
Activists in the tea party movement in Michigan have said Steffek has not been involved with any visible organization and accuse him of acting on behalf of state Democrats to siphon votes away from conservatives and Republicans.
Steffek today called those accusations ridiculous. “They say they’ve never heard of me. Well, I’ve never heard of them. I’ve been too busy,” he said.
Steffek said he never considered himself a Democrat, and has been an independent voter his entire adult life.
He said he’s never been to a tea party meeting or demonstration, but decided to create the Tea Party political party because he retired several years ago and had lots of time on his hands last winter. He said he was motivated by concern over deficit spending and government debt, but is also opposed to free trade agreements like NAFTA that he believes cost American jobs.
Steffek said he located an elections specialist, Lansing attorney Mike Hodge, on the Internet and, with the help of a few friends, put together a plan to create the party.
Hodge was legal counsel to former Democratic Gov. James Blanchard and has worked regularly since then for the state Democratic Party.
But Steffek said he had no help, financial or otherwise, from the Democratic Party or from the UAW.
He said no date has been set for a convention to nominate candidates to run on the Tea Party slate. The nominations have to be submitted to the Secretary of State by Aug. 3.
Contact DAWSON BELL: 517-372-8661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.