The Orlando Sentinel takes a closer look at the 20 candidates on the Tea Party’s Florida ticket — and the backlash the self-described band of “troublemakers” claims to have provoked among Republicans.

Republicans said they suspected [Tea Party founder Fred] O’Neal’s group was paying them to run. O’Neal said while his group did pay for the candidates’ $1781.82 qualifying fees and promised to cover expenses, they weren’t paying them to run.

“This is no big plot. We’re just thorns. We just get it in our mind to do stuff and are troublemakers,” O’Neal said.

One candidate, Christopher Crawford, qualified just in time for Friday’s deadline. He lists his only noteworthy assets as a 1991 Acura and an IKEA couch. He lists an Orlando address, yet is running for a state Senate seat in District 2, in the northwest corner of the panhandle.

The article also notes that Ira Chester, the Tea Party candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, is a serial contributor to Scott Maddox, his Democratic opponent in that race.

Campaign finance records show that he has donated $900 to Maddox’s campaigns between 2001 and 2009.

Meanwhile, CQ Politics reports that one of the Tea Party’s candidates for the Florida House once worked for Alan Grayson as a pollster, and finds other connections between the congressman and the Tea Party.

“There is no proof of any money from the Congressman going to the Florida Tea Party,” Grayson spokesman Todd Jurkowski said. “It’s all conspiracy theory.”

Indeed, the connections noted so far are all circumstantial. All that’s been proven is that the Tea Party is just what O’Neal described — a motley assortment of “thorns.” The fact that Grayson once publicly flirted with courting tea party movement support — citing its support of an audit of the Federal Reserve, a measure he has long championed — also muddles the picture.

The feeding frenzy has just begun, though, with one outlet issuing an open call for “any inside knowledge of what’s going on.”

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