NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A specialty license plate featuring a symbol that has become associated with the tea party movement is a big seller in Virginia.
According to the Virginian-Pilot, nearly 21,800 vehicles registered in Virginia are sporting the "Don't Tread On Me" plate. That makes it ninth in popularity among more than 200 specialty tags, and second only to the "In God We Trust" plate among those authorized in the last five years.
The plate, which has been available for a year and eight months, is based on the Revolutionary War-era Gadsden flag featuring a coiled rattlesnake above the slogan. Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas also have sanctioned "Don't Tread On Me" plates.
Several other Virginia specialty plates with political themes are less popular. The abortion-rights "Trust Women/Respect Choice" plate, for instance, is on about 1,600 vehicles. And roughly 5,400 cars display the anti-abortion counterpart message, "Choose Life."
"My theory on this is, people want to feel like they're doing something, that they're not happy with the status quo," said David Donis of Norfolk, a past Hampton Roads tea party chairman.
Choosing a symbolic license plate, he said, "is an easy way for them to express their sentiments."
The message they bear resonates beyond the tea party core, said David Dwyer, a past chairman of the Hampton Roads tea party's Norfolk chapter.
"It is a symbol of frustration . a symbol of disgust with the government," said Dwyer, who has the plates on two personal vehicles.
Rick Buchanan of Warrenton has a "Don't Tread On Me" license plate personalized with the letters "SEE FFC" aimed at directing people to his conservative-minded "Fauquier Free Citizen" online publication. His wife's personalized plate reads "DDM BRO," which Buchanan says is short for "Don't drone me, bro."
Buchanan, the outgoing first vice chairman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation, said the plates attract the traditional "taxed enough already" set and others exasperated by what he considers Obama administration scandals that qualify as tyranny.
The fee for specialty plates is $10 on top of the regular registration fee. For a personalized message, tack on another $10. In either case, it's payable to the state.