Aiming to unify the conservative vote, Monclova Township businessman Rich Iott announced Thursday he'll drop his independent candidacy for the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and run instead for the Republican nomination.
That move will put him up against former Toledo Police Chief Jack Smith, who has declared himself as a candidate for the GOP nomination in the May 4 primary.
Mr. Iott's switch comes after some in the conservative Tea Party movement complained that having both Mr. Iott and Mr. Smith on the Nov. 2 ballot would split the conservative vote.
"I am going to run my campaign as an independent Republican candidate. This will give voters a choice of the one person they want to challenge the incumbent in November," Mr. Iott said.
Both Mr. Iott and Mr. Smith have ties to a loosely knit Tea Party group that advocates for a smaller federal government. Both Mr. Iott and Mr. Smith are on the list of speakers for a Tea Party "Citizens Town Hall" tomorrow in Sandusky.
Mr. Iott, 58, was the president and chief executive officer of the former Seaway Food Town Inc. chain of supermarkets and drugstores.
Mr. Smith said he welcomes Mr. Iott to the race.
"The end game is to get a conservative into that seat that Congresswoman Kaptur is now in, and not splitting the vote between independents and Republicans makes more sense," he said.
If he wins the primary, Mr. Iott vowed to offer a strong contrast with Miss Kaptur.
"Voters will be able to choose between an inside-the-Beltway taxing-and-spending liberal Democrat and an independent-minded conservative who believes this nation's lawmakers must return to basics," he said.
The district includes part of Lucas County, Erie and Ottawa counties, and part of Lorain County.
A spokesman for Miss Kaptur said she would hold off responding to opposing candidates until after the Republican nominee is selected.
"People know Marcy Kaptur, and they know she's looking out for them, and we'll address these issues then," spokesman Steve Fought said. Miss Kaptur has represented the district since 1983.