Late last year we launched a new program at the Illinois Policy Institute called the “Adopt-A-District” program. One of the early adopters of the project is the Tri-Count-Teas Tea Party group that regularly meets in Bartlett, Illinois.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of this group and got to see firsthand how they have started to implement the program. Afterwards, I talked with one of the group’s leaders, Rick Newton, to discuss the details of their newly formed “Adopt-A-District” program.
Q: Tell us about the Tri-Count-Teas. What is the mission of the organization, how many members do you have, and how long ago did you form?
Newton: The mission of the Tri-Count-Teas is to create awareness of and advocacy for those issues and candidates that/who advance our core beliefs of small/limited government, fiscal responsibility, constitutional adherence, free markets, personal responsibility, and individual freedom.
We are little over 1 year old, and we have about 155 members.
Q. How long ago did you start your “Adopt-A-District” program?
Newton: 6 weeks ago.
Q. Why an “Adopt-A-Legislator” now?
Newton: Need to get our group members feet in the water as far as getting more actively involved and engaged in the issues. We need to get more people off the sidelines and working in ways other than elections. Learning the issues and developing a relationship with elected officials will allow us to be more effective advocates for our positions.
This program allows our members to get more familiar with the legislative process, and our legislators.
Over the long term we want to compare the campaign promises versus their voting record as legislators, and hold them accountable to their promises.
Q. Where does your new program stand as of now?
Newton: We are just beginning to scratch the surface. We have 9 people in the program right now. We’ve adopted 2 U.S. Senators, 3 Congressmen, 2 State Representatives, and 2 State Senators.
A number of the “adopters” are already elected officials on the local level, others are newer to the political process.
Each of the “adopters” gives a short report before each meeting on key bills voted on and coming up in the future, and big news pertaining to the “adopted” legislator/district.
Many of our group members have already met with our state legislators either in Springfield or in their district offices, and we are looking to do that more often.
We want to create educational opportunities for legislators, create awareness of the group, and be advocates for our positions of small/limited government, fiscal responsibility, constitutional adherence, free markets, personal responsibility, and individual freedom.
Q. Are you looking to expand the program in the future?
Newton: Yes, we are just getting started and people are just getting used to the program. As time goes on I would like to see multiple people “adopting” a legislator/district and maximizing our impact. I would also like to see us build a network of people across the state, with people from other conservative activist groups to start working together on the federal level legislators.
Q. Do you use any of the resources at the Illinois Policy Institute in your meetings or correspondences with legislators?
Newton: We value the Illinois Policy Institute’s work and we look forward to doing so more in the future. We’ve had various representatives of the Illinois Policy Institute come out and speak to our group 4 times in the past year and we’ve always found your research very valuable in educating our members. We can use this same information to educate the elected officials that we “adopt” as well.