With state Republicans divided on everything from Medicaid expansion to same sex marriage to JobsOhio, the tea party is making a serious attempt at wrestling control of the state Republican Party.
"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 Portage County tea party leader and candidate for state chairman Tom Zawistowski. "I can tell you for a fact they're not going to do that under Matt Borges because they've already said that."
"Absolutely not true," responds Matt Borges. "Tom is making his case to our 66 member committee. We meet Friday and that committee will make the decision on who leads this Party forward."
Borges, the current executive director of the state GOP, heads into Friday's vote with the endorsement of governor John Kasich, senator Rob Portman and other leading Republican elected officials.
"You never go into one of these elections taking anything for granted," said Borges. "I'm going to make my case to the central committee and they ultimately will decide who they want to lead this Party moving forward."
Zawistowski is banking on dissatisfaction within the state Party organization, pointing to a letter last month signed by over 80 tea party and conservative groups which criticized Borges, Kasich and Portman.
"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 Zawistowski. "It's really simple. They have a serious decision to make."
The state GOP's 66 member central committee will choose the new chairman at meeting on Friday. Current chairman Bob Bennett is retiring.
Borges' attorney said Monday his client owes $168,161 in federal taxes and $4,198 to the state.. Borges says he's resolving the tax problem.
"There was a story that was out about an issue I had with the sale of a home several years ago," said Borges. "That issue has actually been resolved with the IRS. I'm working to make sure that all of my issues are taken care of."
However, two key supporters of Borges, attorney general Mike DeWine and secretary of state Jon Husted, said he owes his supporters an explanation before the committee meets on Friday.
Borges dismisses the Republican infighting as a healthy part of the process.
"There should be disagreements," said Borges. "We are a Party that has a diversity of ideas."
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