The right-wing Moms for Liberty group hopes to put at least one person at every school board meeting -- where its members have attracted attention with angry outbursts over coronavirus restrictions and anti-racism lessons -- and Republican activists see them as an important ally.
The recently founded group has tapped into conservative anger over masks and so-called "critical race theory," helping to steer new voters toward GOP candidates and groups -- and they're hoping to keep them there, reported the Washington Post.
"I have been trying for a dozen years to get 20- and 30-year-old females involved with the Republican Party, and it was a heavy lift to get that demographic," said Christian Ziegler, vice chairman of the Florida Republican Party and a Sarasota County commissioner. "But now Moms for Liberty has done it for me."
In only 10 months, the group already has 135 chapters in 35 states, with 56,000 members and supporters, the organization's founders say, and they hope to have a chapter in every U.S. county.
"Now is the time to capture these parents for the long-term," said co-founder Tina Descovich, who lost her seat on the Brevard County school board last fall. "If you miss this opportunity, when they are really engaged [during the pandemic], it's going to be hard to engage them in the future."
Democrats are suspicious of the group's funding and its origins, noting that its leaders are closely tied to allies of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who's running for re-election and seems to be eying a presidential campaign, but Moms for Liberty's founders insist their organization isn't getting assistance from GOP megadonors like some local groups with similar aims."If someone wants to give us a million dollars, we would take it, but it's just not happening," Descovich said, claiming all funding came from $50 membership fees and sales of their Moms for Liberty T-shirts.
The group's members have hounded public officials at their homes and at public meetings, where they've angrily ranted at school board members and public health officials, but they insist those are isolated incidents and not part of their broader intention.
"We are not blind to the fact that there are crazy people out there, and they do stupid things," said co-founder and GOP activist Marie Rogerson, who had previously managed Descovich's school board campaign. "We encourage our members to be powerful and stand firm for your rights, but we are not there to be an angry group with pitchforks, torches, trying to burn things down."
But critics say Moms for Liberty "brings out the worst in people," as one Florida teacher said, and other parents have been showing up at school board meetings to counter their outbursts.
"Hate and conspiracy is so exciting," said Tamsin Wright, a mother of two who supports mask mandates. "It gets people to come out in droves, so it works."