Tea party supporters rallied Sunday in Duluth with a message of freedom and limited government.
Nearly 1,000 people from around the region attended Sunday's rally at Amsoil Arena for what one organizer called "the biggest tea party rally ever in the Northland," the Duluth News Tribune reported.
"We believe in freedom and a constitutionally limited government," said organizer Becky Hall, who dressed as Betsy Ross for the rally. "We don't believe government can solve all our problems. We believe that too often, government is the problem.
"Remember: It's we, the people. Not we, the government," she said.
Sunday's event was the fourth annual tea party rally in Duluth. But it was the first time the group had used the arena, paying $4,520 for the venue and another $1,200 to rent the video screen there. Individual contributors picked up the tab.
In his keynote address, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., criticized President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and said the Democratic president has "done more to divide this country than any other president I can remember."
Johnson said his own candidacy for the U.S. Senate arose out of an Oshkosh tea party rally address he delivered in October 2009, opposing Obama's health care plans.
Sunday's rally attracted longtime members of the tea party as well as newcomers.
"I've never been to a tea party event before, so I thought I'd come down and check it out," said Neill Atkins, a Duluth businessman and former city council member.
With former Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain and most other GOP hopefuls now out of the hunt for the presidency, Atkins predicted tea party supporters will unite behind a single candidate.
"Now that the dust is settling, whether people are independents or Republicans, I think you'll see a lot of support solidifying behind Mitt Romney," he said.
But not all tea party members appear pleased with the narrowing field.
"The only reason Mitt Romney came out on top was because he has all the money. Santorum was my guy, but he ran out of money," said Rosalee Niemi, who lives just south of Eveleth with her husband, Ken, who also attended Sunday's rally.
Jesse Peterson, a member of Occupy Duluth, came to listen and learn from people at Sunday's event. Peterson expressed concern about the religious motivations of some people in the tea party movement.
"They say they're against tyranny and for freedom, but many of them seem to be pushing for a theocratic state of oppression," he said.
Kim Simac, an author and small business owner from Eagle River, Wis., offered a different take, suggesting the nation's sense of community had faltered largely as a result of efforts to push religion out of the picture.
"Our community squares and schools are now devoid of God, and look at the results," she said.
Information from: Duluth News Tribune