By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The head of the Upstate New York Tea Party is stepping down.
Mark L. Barie said Thursday that he will resign as chairman effective Jan. 15, 2013.
“I just can’t do it anymore,” he told the Press-Republican.
“I get tired a lot, and evening functions are just about impossible. If you are going to run a Tea Party, you have to have evening functions.”
Barie, 58, is still recovering from the effects of a brain aneurysm and three strokes he suffered 18 months ago. He said he continues to make progress in his recovery but is still not quite healthy enough for full chairman duties.
“We still have some FEC (Federal Election Commission) reports to do, but after that in January I am slipping into retirement,” he said.
Barie took over UNYTEA four years ago in the wake of the 2008 election that put President Barack Obama in office. The conservative-leaning group grew to more than 1,000 members and hosted a number of events that featured candidates for statewide and national office.
“I think we definitely made a difference because without our group I don’t think those candidates would have come up here,” Barie said.
“Also, I think we elevated the discussions of the congressional races, and we spawned a whole new generation of political activists, and we got the message out there that you don’t have to sit and curse the darkness. You can light a candle — and we lit it for them.”
Barie and UNYTEA are staunch supporters of Republican congressional candidate Matt Doheny, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Bill Owens of Plattsburgh.
Doheny said Barie built a movement in the North Country.
“He gave a strong, collective voice to conservatives across this vast congressional district who were angered by a government that was giving out bailouts and handouts at every turn,” Doheny said.
“Mark channeled their frustration into action, and the members of UNYTEA continue to work hard for the candidates who share their goal of smaller government and fewer taxes. He made Plattsburgh a “must-visit” for candidates running for statewide office.”
Barie and Owens used to be co-hosts of a show on Mountain Lake Public Television before Owens decided to run for Congress as a Democrat. Before that, the two also worked together to recruit companies to the North Country from Canada.
Barie has sharply criticized Owens since he became a Democrat and worked to defeat him in the 2009 special election and again in 2010.
While he was not successful in ousting Owens, Barie said he thinks his efforts made a difference.
“I think Bill Owens is a lot closer to the center because of the Tea Party,” Barie said.
Owens would say only, “I wish him well in retirement and that his golf game improves.”
Barie said the UNYTEA Steering Committee of 13 members will meet to choose a replacement for him once he steps down.
“I think Tea Partys across the country made a difference, and who knows, if Mitt Romney and Matt Doheny get elected this fall, maybe we won’t need them anymore.”
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