Chris Shrum said June 13 that he was one of a group of people in Rockport who were seeking to engage in a political discourse about the motivation of candidates for Select Board and other municipal offices.

“One way to do that is through campaign signs,” he said. “We made a conscious decision to put signs out.”

What made the signs Shrum and his associates put along Rockport’s roads unusual, in this season of municipal elections and town meetings, was their content.

Rather than advocating for a specific candidate or issue, the two designs called on voters to reject the Tea Party movement and those candidates who might support its agenda.

Unlike the Democratic, Republican and Green Independent parties, the Tea Party does not organize through voter enrollment to nominate candidates. Individuals may attend meetings or access the group through a variety of websites. One such website, found at theteaparty.net, states that the Tea Party movement is a grassroots movement in which members share similar core principles, such as limited government, individual freedoms and a free-market economic system.

“As a movement, the Tea Party is not a political party nor is looking to form a third political party any time soon,” the website said.

Because there is no enrollment or formal party structure, candidates may support the values espoused by the Tea Party without identifying themselves as “Tea Party candidates.”

“The candidates all have a philosophy,” said Shrum. “In having a political discourse you engage those philosophies.”

Shrum said campaign slogans such as “transparent government” were meaningless.

“That’s a soundbite,” he said. “Unfortunately, our political system has come down to soundbites.”

Shrum said he was responsible for the two signs that were placed around town asking voters to reject the Tea Party.

He said that there were candidates in the Rockport Select Board race who were aligned with the Tea Party philosophy, and that he and others in town thought it was important for voters to understand that.

“It’s an important distinction when looking at the candidates for Select Board,” said Shrum. “If you look at the public record of those candidates, they’re for smaller government and privatization of certain services,” he said. “In my opinion, they don’t value the quality and purpose of the public sector.”

Shrum cited a response to a recent VillageSoup article, in which a contributor indicated that Rockport could not afford to provide certain services.

“I look at Rockport and compare the tax rate to other towns throughout the state,” said Shrum. “Rockport’s mil rate is quite low.”

“No one wants to pay taxes, but at the same time they want their roads plowed, their roads paved and other services provided,” he said. “They want a certain level of service.”

Shrum said there was a reason for the three types of economic entities that meet public needs. He said the private for-profit, private nonprofit and public sectors each had a purpose.

“Certain services can’t be provided in a market economy,” he said. Shrum said if all roads were private, motorists would have to stop and pay tolls every few miles. He also named libraries and public safety departments as functions of the public sector.

In addition to posting campaign signs, Shrum said his group made phone calls and sent email messages, asking voters to think about the political philosophies of the candidates for Select Board.

“It’s a grassroots effort to educate the public,” he said. “If the voters were to dive into the record, they would understand more clearly where candidates fall on the issues.”

Shrum, who works as a consultant on economic development and public administration projects, said he was currently under contract with Legacy Rockport, an independent community endowment fund. That contract will expire at the end of June.

“I was a resident of the town long before I had that contract,” he said.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by email at sauciello@villagesoup.com.

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