Potential presidential candidate and tea party leader U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., arrived in Bluffton for a private fundraiser Friday night and will speak at two public events today.
Kimberly Tatro said Friday's reception, under a tent in the backyard of her Barton's Run home, provided guests with "a taste of the Lowcountry" and a chance to meet a rising star in the Republican Party.
Guests paid $100 each or $175 per couple, with proceeds going to a "Bachmann for Congress" reelection fund, according to Bachmann spokesman Andy Parrish.
The fundraiser was closed to the media, per Bachmann campaign policy. Parrish said Bachmann's fundraisers are private because donors typically expect anonymity.
"I'm hosting the reception because I think that as Americans we should know the people we have elected to office," said Tatro, president of the Lowcountry Business Circle.
But there will be other chances for the public to see the congresswoman at no cost.
This morning at 10 a.m., Bachmann will speak to Bluffton's Tea Party branch at the Golden Corral at a free event open to the public.
Bluffton Tea Party co-leader Nancy Lorraine said the meetings usually draw about 200 people, but she expects this event to fill the restaurant. Tea party members have received many calls about it, some from out of state, she said.
Lorraine has said tea party members support Bachmann, whatever her political ambitions, and would be interested in hearing about her work on the House's Financial Services Committee and "the inside scoop on Washington."
Bachmann will also appear at Bluffton's Promenade in old town today, with other speakers. They including state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-West Columbia. The event is from 3 to 5 p.m., and Bachmann is expected to speak at 3:40 p.m.
If it rains, the event will move to Montana's Restaurant & Grizzly Bar on S.C. 46. Organizers will announce if they're using the rain backup plan on radio station FM 104.9, co-organizer Laura Sterling said.
Twelve Bluffton police officers will handle security and traffic, according to Police Chief David McAllister.
While original plans included food and beer sales and possibly thousands of guests, the event has been downsized, alleviating security concerns, although a chance of protesters remains, McAllister said.
"At this point we are prepared for Ms. Bachmann as a potential presidential candidate and one not without controversy," McAllister said. "Typically, an event with a couple hundred people would not need 12 officers."
Bachmann caps off her South Carolina visit on Monday at a tax day Tea Party rally in Columbia with Gov. Nikki Haley.