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Ohio


Ohio GOP sticks with establishment chair over tea party challenger

by WKSU's STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT JO INGLES


Reporter
Jo Ingles
 
In The Region:
Ohio’s Republican Party elected its new chairman today. Matt Borges, the candidate favored by Gov. John Kasich and many other party leaders, was elected by a large margin. But tea party supporters of Borges’ challenger, Tom Zawistowski, showed up in force. And as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, they’re vowing this vote is not the end of the story.
INGLES: GOP selects chairman

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Matt Borges, the state GOP’s acting executive director, will take over as chairman in June. That’s when current leader, Bob Bennett, steps down.  Borges was supported by Gov. Kasich and Republican leaders and won by a large margin, 48 to 7.

His opponent, tea party activist Tom Zawistoski, said Borges would not take the party in a conservative direction.  And in his comments after being nominated, Zawistowski said Republicans have ceded too much. He included Gov. Kasich’s plan to expand Medicaid as an example.

As Zawistowski appealed to central committee members for their support, his supporters were in the back of the room, cheering him on.  And after the vote was announced, some were disgusted.In the hallway, after the vote, Anna Rehl of Newark, said she thought the vote against Zawistowski was unfair.

“I cannot believe after his speech that he only got seven votes.  This just proves my point that every politician needs limited terms because it is fixed.”

Third-party Republicans
Rehl said she thinks it’s time for tea party Republicans to quit trying to work within the GOP. “If there’s a third party, I will work very hard and become involved to make the changes and get back our country.”

For his part, Tom Zawistowski says it’s clear there is a chasm between tea party members and the leadership at the Ohio Republican Party.

“They’re about electing candidates.  What do we want?   … Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, you want policy.  But we are not getting the policy.”

Change from within
Still, Zawistowski does not rule out trying to change the Republican party from within. “We’re looking for conservative candidates who will share our values and will implement them when they are elected.  And we are looking at every House race, every Senate race, every state office and every central committee.”

“Maybe there will be someone in the Republican primary that we can get behind. Maybe there will be a primary.  We don’t know that yet.  Maybe it will be a third candidate.  Maybe it will be an independent candidate.”

While tea party members decide their next move, Borges, the incoming chair, said he’s looking forward to bringing all Republicans together to support good candidates. Asked if he’s worried tea party activists might leave the party, Borges said, “We certainly don’t want them to do that. And again, I hestitate to use words like “they” and “them”.  These are all members of our Republican family.”

Borges said he wants to work with Zawistowski and tea party activists to elect good candidates and establish good policy.  And Borges says there’s no need for conservative members of the party to think it will abandon its traditional stances on issues like gay marriage.

If activists for gay marriage are successful in getting it on the ballot, Borges said his party will take a clear stand.


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