Troy Stanley (Pic via Facebook)

In July, former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott told The Washington Post that Republicans should work toward assimilating tea party candidates, saying, “We need to co-opt them.” On CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey expressed dissatisfaction with Lott’s statement, calling tea party movement supporters “independent-minded people.”

“They really have no particular appreciation for the performance of either party in the past several years,” Armey said. “They want to run for office in order to change that.”

Independent Troy Stanley, currently running against Republican Ander Crenshaw to represent Florida’s Fourth District, is one such “independent-minded” person.

A Navy veteran and former hot dog vendor, Stanley decided to enter the political ring due to his dissatisfaction with current politicians and policies, and he isn’t fond of the idea of the tea party being co-opted.

“That’s not a good idea,” he tells The Florida Independent. “Members of the tea party will caucus with whomever they most identify. Some are Republicans, some are more moderate. … It’s important they remain distinct in keeping the spirit of the tea party.”

“It’s clear from talking to the average tea party supporter that they are not enamored with party labels,” says Michael Tupper, Stanley’s campaign manager. “They are keen on promoting limited constitutional government, less spending, personal responsibility and individual liberty. Clearly there are policies advanced by both Democrats and Republicans that offend those principles. The ideal candidate for them is someone who is visible and vocal and not afraid to go out on a political limb to represent the voice of the people as opposed to powerful lobbyists and special interests.”

Stanley will be speaking at a tea party event in St. Augustine this Saturday, a rally that will also feature Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott.

Stanley echoes his campaign manager’s sentiment: “The tea party is a unique animal. For the most part, members are Republicans, but I’ve met some Democrats, as well. Overall, the message is bigger than the party.”

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