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CNN and Tea Party Express to host first-of-its-kind Tea Party presidential primary debate

By: CNN Political Producer Shannon Travis
Washington (CNN) – CNN is teaming up with the Tea Party Express for a first-of-its-kind presidential primary debate, both organizations announced Friday. The Tea Party debate, featuring 2012 Republican presidential candidates, is scheduled for Labor Day week 2011. It will take place in Tampa, Florida – the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Since the spring of 2009, the Tea Party movement has been increasingly vocal in advocating for less government spending, lower taxes and shrinking the deficit. The Tea Party debate will place specific emphasis on those issues.

Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer talked to CNN about what activists hope to hear from Republican presidential candidates. “We want to hear what their ideas are – what their thoughts are – on turning this economy back around and getting us on a sound economic footing, paying down some of our deficit, getting a balanced budget, and reining in the spending,” Kremer said.

Kremer added, “We’ve proven ourselves in this last campaign, election cycle of 2010, we’re the only Tea Party group that engaged in election activity. And we got involved because we simply believed that if we’re going to affect change we’re going to do it at the ballot box. And the tea party movement has proven how powerful it is.”

Sam Feist, CNN Political Director and Vice President of Washington-based programming said, “The Tea Party movement is a fascinating, diverse, grassroots force that already has drastically changed the country’s political landscape.”

“Undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the Tea Party,” Feist added.

The announcement of a CNN-Tea Party Express debate comes three days after CNN announced it is joining with WMUR-TV and the New Hampshire Union Leader to produce the first 2012 Republican Presidential Primary debate in the “First in the Nation” primary state of New Hampshire. That debate is scheduled to take place on June 7, 2011.