Tom Stillings said he learned the news late Monday afternoon - the Eastport man who belongs to four Michigan grassroots tea party groups is not the official Tea Party candidate vying to replace retiring Bart Stupak in the U.S. House of Representatives District 1.
That was Lonnie Lee Snyder, a Kawkawlin man who didn't return a message left at his home Tuesday night.
Snyder was part of a list of 23 candidates the newly formed Tea Party political group released Tuesday. The Tea Party is suspected of being a Democrat front to skim unaware voters who may generally support the genuine grass roots tea party movement but be unaware that isn't supportive of a third party.
Stillings, and now Snyder, are in a targeted race to replace Stupak, the Democrat who announced he was retiring when his term ended after a furor for his "yes" vote for the Affordable Health Care for America Act.
"I am trying to figure out who the heck this person is," said Stillings, who belongs to the Traverse City Tea Party, Petoskey's Tax And Spend Must End, the Ontonagon Tea Party and the Northern Michigan Liberty Alliance.
Stillings didn't even know that Lonnie was a man, not a woman.
"I have no clue. She is nobody recognizable from any tea party group that I know to be in existence. Does that mean she is not (part of a tea party)? It means I don't know her and no one else I know knows of her."
Bill Nowling, communications director for the House Republicans, said he scanned the list of Tea Party candidates and saw they were almost all in targeted GOP races.
"What you see is where they picked and chose districts where they think an independent or a third party candidate can peel off Republican votes," Nowling said.
The Democratic Party has denied being involved, but many are skeptical as more and more information surfaces.
Chetly Zarko, who recently died, uncovered the petition drive and discovered it was being done by Progressive Campaigns Inc. out of California. Their website has a client list that includes a campaign issue supported by George Soros, a well known supporter of Democrat causes. PCI also was involved with the Reform Michigan Government Now petition that was supported by Democrats and attacked by Republicans.
The Detroit Free Press has reported that the Tea Party leader is Mark Steffek, who is a retired autoworker and UAW steward. The grassroots tea party activists have not been supportive of unions.
And now the Tea Party candidates are targeting GOP contested races, Nowling said.
"If it walks like Mark Brewer, and it talks like Mark Brewer, then it's probably Mark Brewer," Nowling wrote in an e-mail, referring to the Michigan Democrat Party chairman. "This is the same stunt he pulled with the group 'Reform Michigan Government Now.' He created a ruse to make it look like a grassroots effort except that he was so ham-handed in the process that people saw it immediately for what it was. The most simple answer usually turns out to be the correct one, and the simplest answer here is that this is all Mark Brewer and MDP's doing."
"You start adding these things up and it just doesn't pass the smell test," Nowling said.