PHOENIX – Given the chance to address eight Republican presidential candidates, Marcus A. Huey, a tea party member from Glendale, asked how they would “assure the American people that energy independence will finally become reality.”
As the presidential hopefuls took part in the CNN/Tea Party debate in Tampa, Fla. Huey posed his question from Phoenix. He was one of roughly 175 Arizona voters who sat in front of CNN cameras as a satellite audience.
Herman Cain, a businessman and self-proclaimed non-politician, responded to Huey’s question, which was the only one to come out of the Phoenix group.
“We’ve got to remove some of those barriers out of the way that are being created by the federal government,” Cain said. “I would start with an EPA that’s gone wild.”
The Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots organized the local event, which took place at the Goldwater Institute. Tea Party Express and CNN selected Phoenix as one audience in addition to two other groups of voters in Cincinnati and Portsmouth, Va.
“I think we have a strong voice in Arizona, the Tea Party does,” said Lisa Gray, president of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots.
The debate, the second network-sponsored event inside a week, pitted the presidential hopefuls against one another on hot-button issues including Social Security, job creation, health care and national debt.
Huey said President Barack Obama’s efforts to deal with those issues is the reason he joined the tea party.
“I was just on the couch and couldn’t take it anymore,” he said. “I didn’t know exactly what to do or how to do it, but the tea party provided the best access to political action for me.”
At an earlier network debate on Sept. 7, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry emerged as the most prominent candidates. Roy Miller, a Phoenix tea party member supporting of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, said he thought Romney and Perry stole the show again.
“I think it’s Romney and Perry, and then everyone else,” he said.
The candidates repeatedly returned to the federal budget. The Phoenix group seemed to show the most support for Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s summary of the country’s economic woes.
“People are tired of spending money we don’t have on programs they don’t want,” Perry said to a loud round of applause.
Whitney Phillips is a reporter for Cronkite News Service