Meet the force behind Houston's Tea Party movement

February 26, 2010 5:53:42 PM PST
Many candidates are changing how they are campaigning. It has to do with the evolving Tea Party movement - conservatives who want fewer taxes and less government. You may never have heard of Felicia Cravens, but you and every would-be politician in the state has heard of the group she leads.

"They are talking about us," said Cravens, who heads up the Houston Tea Party Society. "And they are talking to us. And they are listening. And that, I think, we didn't anticipate being able to do at this stage already."

Cravens says she knows that it and all of the other like-minded Tea Party groups in Texas are affecting the way candidates campaign.

"I think they realize the force that comes behind us, that we are people that are not going to accept the way politics has been done in the past," she said.

It was evident at the Harris County Republican party fundraiser Wednesday night, when there was a lot of discussion about the need to reach out to Tea Party members and other self-described independents, and that the GOP needs them come November.

Governor Rick Perry has appeared at Tea Party rallies. Challenger Debra Medina speaks their language of limited government and property rights.

"We have a significant portion of membership that supports her, but we have supporters of all three candidates from the Republican side," said Cravens.

Cravens says the group, which has a heavy Internet presence, has 5,000 Houston members and reaches some 20,000 interested voters. Statewide, Tea Party sympathizers number in the six figures. And their voice could be getting even louder.

"We're building in for long term," said Cravens. "Hopefully people will be engaged for that long in perpetuity. We're training people. We're waking people up. We're encouraging them to do things they've never done before in politics."

If you are set to head to the polls Tuesday, you'll want to be prepared. Get a look at sample ballots and find the polling locations near you.