MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina — The South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention is underway, and event organizers tell Breitbart News that they’ve been overwhelmed by an unexpectedly high level of interest among activists statewide.
The event is sold out and the main ballroom, which seats more than 700 people, isn’t large enough for the full crowd. South Carolina Tea Party activist Joe Dugan, the convention’s executive producer, tells Breitbart News the group has created an extra, overflow room that will broadcast the major speeches from the ballroom—and speakers will head down there to mingle with event attendees after their speeches.
There’s overwhelming interest outside the convention as well. Event organizers tell Breitbart News that the group’s website has cratered under immense traffic many times leading up to this weekend, due to the widespread statewide and national interest in the convention.
An estimated crowd of about 1,100 to 1,200 will hear some potential presidential candidates and major conservative leaders speak at the event this weekend into Monday afternoon for the three-day convention.
“What it says is that for the first three years, we restricted admission to our convention because of space restrictions to members of the grassroots Tea Party movement,” Dugan said in a brief interview backstage as the event kicked off:
This year, we decided that it’s not enough to just go out and vote. Americans need to take a more active role in their government. Therefore, we are providing a dozen training classes and opening up admission to the general public because they also need to hear the message we’ve been sending out for the past three years which is the reality and truth about what’s happening in America. All we hear is lies, deception and deceit from Washington, and we need to tear away the curtain of secrecy and let the American people know what’s really happening.
Major speakers set to weigh in this weekend include potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), real estate magnate Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. In addition, Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Tom Rice (R-SC), Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), Cruz’s father Rafael Cruz, 2014 U.S. Senate candidate from Louisiana Col. Rob Maness, Ambassador Henry Cooper—a chief figure in crafting Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative—retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Bill Cowan, documentary filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch, Tea Party Patriots’ Bill Pascoe, the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector, Conservative Review’s and FreedomWorks’ Deneen Borelli, Open The Books’ Adam Andrzejewski, and several other state and national conservative leaders.
The event comes just on the heels of Gohmert’s and other conservatives’—including Bridenstine and Duncan—effort to oust Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the U.S. House. It also marks the true beginning of the Republican presidential race. In about a year, Republican voters here will go to the polls in the first-in-the-south primary state. South Carolina is likely to be crucial to any potential GOP candidate’s chances at winning the Republican nomination for president, and given its importance it’s likely that every major candidate will be spending time and resources in the state over the next several months.