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Cornstalked: As the 14 Wisconsin Democrats run, meet the numerous Illinois Tea Party activists giving chase

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Jeff Winkler
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      Jeff Winkler

      Jeff Winkler is a Daily Caller staff writer covering firearms, as well as campaign advertising and fringe culture topics. He worked previously for several Arkansas and New Zealand publications. His byline has appeared in Slate, Reason, Good magazine, the Guardian, Washington City Paper and most notably, Worm Digest.

To say that 14 Wisconsin Democrats are “on the lam” in Illinois is an understatement. Relentlessly hounded by Illinois Tea Party members, they are, truly, on the run.

No matter which podunk border town the senators try to hide in, they are running all the time thanks to highly effective efforts of conservative activists who have streamlined their “search party” by utilizing Facebook, email blasts and quick video posts. Who knew the Tea Party would be so good at bounty hunting 2.0?

On Thursday, The Missing 14 unsubtly crashed the Clock Tower Resort’s Chocoholic Frolic in Rockford, Ill. David Hale and his camera began stalking the resort, pestering the senators. By Saturday, some of the Missing 14 had skipped over to the city’s Holiday Inn — and were reportedly seen at Hooters having a last supper of sorts — when Hale waltzed into the hotel’s lobby and confronted them with his camera, asking questions like, “Senators! Why won’t you go home and do your job?”

Probably aware that a posse of 14 pasty bureaucrats will stick out in a crowd, the senators did what any fugitive chain gang would do: They cut the links and went in separate directions. One did the smart thing and disappeared into the polished back alleys of the Windy City, where only the New York Times could find him.

By the following Monday, eight of the 14 had gone 30 miles northeast to the two-hotel town of Harvard (pop. 9,000ish) thinking it might be a good place to “hide.” It took just one tip from a “concerned citizen,” however, before a few amateur Illinois activists descended upon the hotel, causing enough commotion for the senators to quickly pack it up.

Mary Alger, the coordinator of the Crystal Lake Tea Party was grocery shopping when she got the tip. Dropping off her produce, making a quick sign and skirting 15 minutes northwest to Harvard, she met up with “Doc,” a member of the Northern Illinois Tea Party who holds down a full-time job when he’s not hunting Democrats. Lori White, a Spring Grove resident, showed up after responding to a Facebook post on the Rockford Tea Party page asking if anyone near Harvard was willing to drop by the hotel, preferably with a video camera.

The hotel called the cops on Doc and Mary because they were trespassing, so Doc skedaddled and at a nearby McDonald’s, Mary waited for White to arrive. Unfortunately, White got there just in time to see four senators piled into a tiny Mazda behind her — the make, model and license plate matching a response to a Facebook post. As she fumbled for her video camera, the senators sped off, up Highway 23. Though she tried to follow, White lost them. Though that won’t stop her helping out the other bounty hunters.

Meanwhile, a local paper published a picture of one of the Democrats. Northern Illinois Tea Party board member Joe Terrell had not only set up a “Flee Party Tracker” Facebook page but was able to do some magic thanks to information sharing and basic internet research.

“Based on that picture, a list of Democratic donors and Google Earth we were able to identify where it was taken,” said Terrell. And with that, he posted the citizen’s equivalent to what the police like to refer to as an APB — an All Points Bulletin.

For the past week and a half, this has been the regular rhyme and flow of both the Wisconsin state senators and the amateur bounty hunters tracking them. Each time the senators find a place to hide, some local resident sends a quick Facebook note or records a few minutes of footage so that Tea Party members around northern Illinois can coordinate confrontations no more dangerous than a slightly pushy reporter asking, “Why are you running?”