Tea Party Takes Aim At State GOP As Anger Increases


UPDATED: Friday April 5, 2013 12:54 PM

A candidate for chairman of the Ohio Republican Party is angry with Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Rob Portman and the leadership of the state GOP.

"You have these two groups, the social conservatives and the fiscal conservatives, both are unhappy with the Republican Party and this is a big problem," said Tom Zawistowski, a leader in the Ohio tea party movement.  "It's really simple. They have a serious decision to make."

Zawistowski answered questions from Jim Heath and Tracy Townsend for Sunday's Capitol Square.

He is challenging Matt Borges, the frontrunner to replace outgoing GOP chairman Bob Bennett.

The state GOP's central committee of 66 people will choose the replacement for Bennett at its April 26 meeting.

"We have a situation where 66 people are going to decide who can bring in the social conservatives, the fiscal conservatives, the grassroot tea party's and get them on the same team to work with us," said Zawistowski.  "I can tell you for a fact they're not going to do that under Matt Borges because they've already said that."

Borges has the endorsement of Kasich, Portman and other leading Republican elected officials.

But Zawistowski points to a letter last month signed by over 80 tea party and conservative groups which criticized Borges, Kasich and Portman.

"Part of being on the same team is being able to tell the truth to your friends," said Zawistowski.  "What we need to be able to do as a party is talk to each other.  And unfortunately in the Republican Party that really isn't appreciated.  There's a lot of retribution for people who speak out."

Portman recently reversed his position on same-sex marriage, and it's a main reason Zawistowski says he's running.

"We respect Sen. Portman a great deal but he made a decision that was very hurtful to a lot of people," said Zawistowski.

The Portage County businessman also holds Borges and Bennett responsible for Mitt Romney losing Ohio last November.

"The Ohio Republican Party is at a critical state," said Zawistowski.  "If you look at the last election, Mitt Romney lost because religious conservatives stayed home.  It wasn't because the Obama people turned out."

Zawistowski said Kasich's support of Medicaid expansion will hurt his chances for reelection next year.

"You have Gov. Kasich coming out against the will of the people, 66 percent of us passed the Ohio healthcare amendment.  It won majorities in all 88 counties," said Zawistowski.  "Now he's for Medicaid expansion which flies in their face.  And so now, you have the fiscal conservatives who worked on that healthcare amendment saying they're going to stay home next year.  That's not exactly a recipe for winning in 2014 from my perspective."

Zawistowski dismisses the recent study conducted by the Republican National Committee that recommended GOP candidates develop a plan to appeal to minority voters.

“I met with a black pastor in my community the other day and we spent two and a half hours agreeing on a whole lot more than we were disagreeing,” said Zawistowski.  “The Republican Party is a top down decision making body, it’s not inclusive.  You don’t see the fighting on the left that you see on the right do you?”

With the GOP election just two weeks off, Zawistowski says he's been trying to personally contact each of the 66 members.

"I wish I could tell you how many votes I had because I haven't been through the whole process," said Zawistowski.  "When I announced I wrote to every one of them,  I've been calling them all week and getting more support than I thought I was going to get quite frankly.”

You can watch the entire interview Sunday at 11:30 am on Capitol Square.

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