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Support pours in for Lansing hot dog vendor

December 13, 2012

Article republished from MIRS Capitol Capsule

At first, Lorilea Zabadal was just bothered by news that downtown hot dog vendor Clint Tarver’s catering equipment was destroyed during Tuesday’s Capitol protests over the Right to Work law. The legislative staffer for Rep. Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville) isn’t exactly a frequent customer of the popular vendor, whose cart outside Lansing City Hall at Michigan and Capitol is a warm weather, lunchtime fixture.

In fact, Zabadal doesn’t eat meat. She wouldn’t take a hot dog if one were given to her. It’s Tarver’s infectious smile and good humor (and the Diet Cokes) that had her growing more upset about the hot dog guy’s plight as the day grew on.

“When I got home and I saw the photo of him picking through the debris, it broke my heart,” she said. “Everyone knows Clint and this was awful. He was the last person to deserve something like this.”

Around midnight, Zabadal set up a website on with the initial goal of raising $2,000 to assist Tarver in recouping his losses. The number had grown to $22,816 by 10:16 p.m.

Tarver’s wife, Linda Lee Tarver, said she’s been crying all day, overwhelmed by the support being shown her 63-year-old husband.

“I love my husband and I know he’s a wonderful man and I knew people absolutely knew him around the city. But to see this overwhelming support for him, it’s overwhelming,” she said. “He had such an awful day yesterday and this has shown the support and love for him.”

“Clint the Hot Dog Guy” was catering the tented event on the Capitol lawn sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) when protestors dismantled the cords holding the tent up, collapsing the canvas and trapping some people inside.

Tarver’s wife said her husband assisted people from under the fallen tarp, gathered a few of his things and brought them back to his truck. When he returned to the scene, around $500 worth of catering equipment had been destroyed. Hot dogs and other product had been thrown about.

As he picked though the debris, protestors hurled racial slurs and “ugly stuff” at him. Nobody offered to help.

Linda Lee Tarver, the Ethnic Vice Chair of the Michigan Republican Party, said initially she felt guilty for setting up her husband with the event, which she was able to do because of her connections with folks at AFP.

While she is politically active, he is not. His political views, in reality, probably were closer to those of the protestors than the lawmakers who passed Right to Work.

“He’s just a hot dog guy,” she said. “Until yesterday, he identified as a Democrat. He wasn’t there for political reasons. He was just trying to make a few dollars in the off-season.”

Clint Tarver’s story has been a popular topic around the Capitol today as the regular crowd of lobbyists, lawmakers, staffers and other government workers share their disgust with the treatment of someone who brings a little lunch and big smiles to the Capitol area. The Senate Republican Caucus is catering hotdogs from Clint Tarver tomorrow, spokeswoman Amber McCann confirmed.

In a statement this afternoon, leadership in the House Democratic Caucus said they would be supporting Tarver’s business by hiring him to cater a caucus lunch next year.

“Violence of any kind is never acceptable, and it’s particularly dismaying when it happens to someone so beloved by the Capitol community,” said incoming House Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) and incoming Minority Floor Leader Rudy HOBBS (D-Southfield).

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