Tea Parties Forge Alliances to Push Agendas

RICHMOND, Va.—The tea-party movement is turning more professional.

Around the country, tea-party groups are building increasingly sophisticated political organizations and overcoming early bickering to push legislative platforms, elect their own delegates, shake up statehouses and even form alliances with the Republican Party establishment they profess to dislike.

Nowhere is this evolution more vivid than in Virginia, where a federation of more than 30 groups scattered across the state now has the ear of the Republican governor, top state legislators and the state's congressional delegation.

The Federation of Virginia Tea Party Patriots helped push legislation through the Virginia Statehouse earlier this year to blunt the impact of the new federal health-care law. It is now allying with like-minded lawmakers to champion an ambitious roster of bills.

In a show of strength, the group will host a two-day policy convention starting Friday in Richmond that looks set to be the largest state tea-party gathering of its kind to date.

Similar coordinating efforts are underway in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Virginia, Texas and Ohio.

For much of the past year, the meteoric rise of the tea-party movement has struck many as a threat to the Republican establishment. But in state after state, tea-party groups are putting the fireworks aside to form at least temporary alliances with the GOP as they strengthen their own organizations. Many of these groups are already looking beyond the November midterm elections and plotting strategies for legislative sessions and local elections next year.

"What we are witnessing is a very authentic grass-roots movement," said Ned Ryun, president of Virginia-based American Majority, a group that trains conservative activists and candidates. "But without a lasting fabric, these groups will have trouble keeping the passion alive into the future." Ryan's group has opened activist-training offices in Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

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