Local political blogger Javier Manjarres was in the thick of the heckling drama at the Newt Gingrich rally in Coral Springs yesterday and claimed that one of Gingrich's staffers "assault[ed]" him in the incident he caught on tape.
Turns out, that Gingrich staffer is the campaign's Broward co-chair, Karin Hoffman, who was called out nearly two years ago by the South Florida Tea Party as "misleading/misrepresenting herself" as a legitimate Tea Party figure.
Hoffman, from Coral Springs, was outed by South Florida Tea Party Chairman Everett Wilkinson last year after Hoffman's group, "DC Works for Us," scored a meeting with then-Republican National Committee boss Michael Steele.
"They were using the name 'tea party,'" Wilkinson told my predecessor, Thomas Francis, in February 2010. "These people who have the meeting are not really tea party people. If you have a group of 120 or 130 people [as Hoffman apparently does] and we have a group of 5,000 people, then who's really the tea party?"
Wilkinson said he had to assure his Tea Party group that Hoffman's meeting with Steele was an unofficial "publicity stunt" under the name of the "nonpartisan" Tea Party.
Hoffman rejected Wilkinson's charges to New Times the next day, denying that she was a Tea Party faker or aligning herself with the GOP establishment.
Still, the meeting -- along with Hoffman being referred to as a "South Florida Tea Party leader" in news reports -- led to Wilkinson penning a letter to Steele, essentially calling Hoffman a phony.
Here's an excerpt from the letter:
An individual, Karin Hoffman, has been representing herself as a tea party/grassroots leader and set up a meeting Chairman Steele for the 16th. Karin Hoffman has a website called "DCWorksForUs.com" and a group of approximately 120 people that meet in Coral Springs, FL. Let this serve as a notice that she is not part of the tea party movement and is misleading/misrepresenting herself to you as a tea party leader.
This is a free country and I am not telling you to meet with anyone. However, if the RNC, Mr. Steele, or Mrs. Hoffman represents this as a "tea party meeting" I will be forced to make statements to the press and public denying such claims. This would not be the first time I had to fight to keep the tea party from being "hijacked."
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For what it's worth, though, Wilkinson all but endorsed Gingrich earlier this week, saying, "For once, I am seeing conservatives unite around one candidate, Newt Gingrich. Newt is a perfect example of perseverance. Every time you think he is knocked out, he stands up and punches harder. The Republican primary is far from over, but Newt Gingrich deserves the title of 'Rocky.' I am predicting Newt to win Florida."