PLEASANTON -- East Bay conservatives sounded a battle cry Saturday to take back congressional and state offices at the polls.
The occasion was the Pleasanton-NorCal Tea Party's Golden State Rally for America, held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.
The event's organizer said she expected the biggest turnout to date in California for an event by the grassroots tea party movement because people in the Bay Area are "fired up" about the Nov. 2 elections.
"Conservatives here don't take it for granted," said Bridget Melson, founder and president of the Pleasanton-NorCal Tea Party. "They're in the middle of the belly of the liberal beast, truly."
Candidates who spoke at the fairgrounds included David Harmer, a Republican who hopes to oust U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, in the 11th Congressional District; John Dennis, who is looking to replace House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, in the 8th District; and San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson, who hopes to unseat incumbent Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, in the 15th Assembly District.
KSFO conservative radio host Brian Sussman kicked off the all-day rally by declaring a resurgence of the original intent of the U.S. Constitution -- for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
"The patriotic spirit of 1776 is alive and well in the year 2010, and we are going to take back this country," he said to a cheering audience.
The message rang true with attendee Kathy Coon, of Fremont, who said she supports candidates who favor a more limited federal government.
"We don't want so much power centralized," said Coon, who also attended the Pleasanton-NorCal Tea Party's second annual Tax Day event in April. "We'd like to go back to the way of the Founding Fathers, with local control."
Many of the speakers addressed what they said is a need for fiscal conservatism in a time of out-of-control government spending.
Thomas Del Beccaro, vice chairman of the California Republican Party, said two crucial posts that would help reign in government waste include the state controller and state treasurer positions.
State Senators Tony Strickland and Mimi Walters, who are running for controller and treasurer, respectively, against Democratic incumbents John Chiang and Bill Lockyer, said they were the right people to hold the government accountable.
"We need to have a treasurer who knows how to manage people's money and protect the taxpayer," Walters said.
For many tea party members -- including lifelong conservatives Richard and Gail Stan, of San Ramon -- protecting the taxpayer is paramount to ensure that people don't move out of state.
"I love California, but I can't afford to live here," Richard Stan said.
Meanwhile, offering a completely different viewpoint were about two dozen members of progressive group MoveOn.org.
They participated in a pre-rally satirical event, pretending to be workers for "RepubliCorp," a fictional company that they said purchases elected positions for Republicans.
"We're here because we think our democracy is in danger," said Frank Burton, MoveOn's Southern Alameda County Council coordinator.
Armed with fake checks made out to Republican candidates such as Carly Fiorina, who is running against Sen. Barbara Boxer, and money taped to their costumes, the group held up signs and chanted songs, including "We Will Buy You," set to Queen's "We Will Rock You."