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Tea Party leader to seek Ohio GOP post

Top Republicans ignore ‘grass-roots’ in backing Borges, challenger says

Bob-Bennett-Ohio-GOP

Bob Bennett, the Ohio GOP chairman is retiring. Tom Zawistowski, a Portage County businessman, a Tea Party leader, said he will is seeking Bennett's post.

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Two weeks after Tea Party Republicans complained about the liberal direction of the party, an eastern Ohio Tea Party leader said Tuesday he would compete for the job of Ohio Republican chairman when the party’s central committee meets April 26.

Tom Zawistowski, a Portage County businessman, complained that the party leadership is ignoring the “grass roots.”

The party’s central committee of 66 people — one man and one woman from each of Ohio’s 33 Senate districts — will elect a chairman to replace Bob Bennett, who is retiring. Party leaders already are unified behind Matt Borges, the party’s executive director, to become chairman.

Mr. Zawistowski said he is in a position to unify the “fiscal conservative, social conservative, and moderate registered voters within the Republican Party.” Failure to do so, he said, will lead to a third party, and “that will assure that John Kasich loses his bid to be re-elected as governor in 2014 and risks Ohio becoming a permanent Blue State.”

Two weeks ago, 83 Tea Party advocates in Ohio, including Mr. Zawistowski, criticized Mr. Borges because he represented a gay-rights organization as a lobbyist and was convicted of an ethics violation that was later expunged.

The same letter also criticized Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s switch in favor of same-sex marriage, and Governor Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio as part of national health care and his proposed increased tax on shale oil and gas drillers.

Mr. Zawistowski led the We the People Conventions in 2011 and 2012 which brought together Ohio Tea Party groups and sold more than 2,000 tickets.

Jon Stainbrook, chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party and a member of the state central committee from the 11th District, said he’s supporting Mr. Borges. “He’s someone who works well with the governor’s office and is someone who’s a great communicator,” Mr. Stainbrook said.

A letter supporting Mr. Borges has been signed by GOP elected officials including Mr. Kasich; Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor; Mr. Portman; John Boehner, speaker of the U.S. House; David Yost, state auditor; Josh Mandel, state treasurer; Mike DeWine, state attorney general; Jon Husted, Ohio secretary of state; Keith Faber, Ohio Senate president, and Bill Batchelder, speaker of the Ohio House.

Contract Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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