Here’s the story, from Tom Zawistowski, president of the Ohio Citizens PAC.
“Operatives from the ORP have been calling voters and county officers with a narrative that says the Tea Party is controlled by the Democrats and Tom Zawistowski is paid by the Dems, and our goal is to destroy the Republican Party,” Zawistowski said.
Zawistowski, the head of the Portage County Tea Party, has had harsh words for the Ohio Republican Party and for Gov. John Kasich in particular – mostly over Kasich’s push for Medicaid expansion. Zawistowski says the state Republican Party is “an election machine, and their goal is to elect people so they get money and power.”
Not surprisingly, the Ohio Republican Party is refuting those claims.
“No, that is not true at all," says spokesman Chris Schrimpf. He says Chairman Matt Borges has "reached out repeatedly to the Tea Party. We continue to reach out to the Tea Party. The chairman’s hand is always open. He speaks to their groups and talks about the ways we can work together and that’s where we continue to do.”
Libertarians in the mix
The claim that Democrats are secretly backing the Tea Party in an attempt to destroy the Republican Party echoes something heard in the protest hearing over Libertarian Charlie Earl’s place on the ballot in the governor’s race. Lawyers say Democrats helped Libertarians gather signatures for Earl to make sure there would be a conservative candidate on the ballot to potentially siphon votes from incumbent Gov. John Kasich.
Libertarians admit that they did work with Democrats, but they say there’s nothing in the law that prevents that. Zawistowski’s Ohio Citizens PAC is supporting seven conservative candidates for the Ohio Senate.That includes one incumbent. The group is also backing 16 candidates for Ohio House, including four incumbents – three of those incumbents have not been endorsed by the Ohio Republican Party.
Zawistowski says Tea Partiers are disappointed that the ORP has endorsed nearly every other incumbent in the primary, which he says doesn’t give Republican voters a choice of who they want to run in the general election this fall.
Who's destroying whom
“We’re not trying to destroy the Republican Party,” Zawistowski said. “We think they’ve done a great job of destroying the Republican Party. The Tea Party candidates are trying to restore the Republican Party to Republican values and principles. That’s what we’re doing by running candidates for House and Senate and state Central Committee.”
But Schrimpf says the Republican party endorsed those incumbents based on their records of cutting taxes and creating jobs. And he says the Republican Party will focus on that message, no matter what Zawistowski says.
“That’s a record we’re proud of and we’re going to continue to talk about,” Schrimpf says.“We’re not going to spend a lot of time engaging with back-and-forth with a gentleman making accusations against us.”
Zawistowski has said publicly that Tea Partiers are comfortable with Democratic candidate Ed FitzGerald beating Kasich this fall, because FitzGerald would face a Republican-dominated Legislature that would likely block his major policy efforts.
No one from the Ohio Democratic Party wanted to comment on tape. But Chairman Chris Redfern offered in an e-mailed statement with a single sentence: “And to think they say that John Kasich doesn’t have a base problem.”