COLUMBIA — One of South Carolina's first Tea Party leaders has severed his ties with the conservative movement and is running for Lexington County Council.
Allen Olson, who founded the Columbia Tea Party several years ago, is challenging Brad Matthews in County Council district 7, which includes Seven Oaks and parts of Irmo.
In the months leading up to the 2012 S.C. Republican presidential primary, Olson was frequently quoted as a spokesman for that group. But he resigned to endorse Newt Gingrich, who would go on to win South Carolina's primary but ultimately would lose the nomination to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Olson spoke with The Buzz recently. Below is an excerpt of our conversation:
BUZZ: Why are you running for county council?
OLSON: I think its because Im frustrated with the system and Im frustrated with the Tea Party and Im just frustrated all around.
BUZZ: Why are you frustrated with the Tea Party?
OLSON: They've gone in a different direction that I dont think is in line with what the Tea Party started out as.
BUZZ: Such as?
OLSON: Immigration reform. Some of them are taking on social issues, these conspiracy theorist issues, Sharia Law ... . The more issues they take on the further away they get from what it started out as.
BUZZ: When did you cut ties with the Columbia Tea Party?
OLSON: I resigned to endorse Newt Gingrich (in the 2012 Republican presidential primary). I never left at that time. But the more I saw the direction they were going, the more I was disheartened with it.
Back in 2012, (Lexington Tea Party leader) Cory Norris ran against (Lexington County councilman) Johnny Jeffcoat, and I came out against Cory Norris. In that sense, I guess you could say I officially cut ties with them. I made a lot of enemies then, but I dont care.
BUZZ: Do you still consider yourself a member of the Tea Party movement?
OLSON: I consider myself tea party with what it started out as, not with what it has become. Ronald Reagan said he never left Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him. I guess thats where I sit with the Tea Party. Ted Cruz, I agree with a lot of his philosophies, I just don't agree with his tactics, how he goes about doing it. The same can be said for the tea party throughout South Carolina.
BUZZ: In your view, what should the Tea Party stand for?
OLSON: Fiscal responsibility, and thats it. Back in 2009, we had almost 2 million people marched on Washington, DC because of the tea party. Absolutely no way they can get that now. They have branched out and taken on so much stuff, they have alienated a whole lot of people that would normally would be supporters of them.
BUZZ: Any particular reason you are challenging Brad Matthews?
OLSON: That's my district. He's a great guy. I've known him before he ran for office He did my wifes 401(k). Hes just -- I want people to be not only be represented but feel as though they are represented, of being part of the process as opposed to County Council just voting and not letting people know what they are doing.