Matt Borges, a strong ally of governor John Kasich, was successful in his bid to replace retiring Bob Bennett as Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, but his tea party opponent vows to fight on.
"There's the old Reagan axiom that somebody who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is your friend and not your enemy," said Borges. "What about somebody who agrees with you 95 or 99 percent of the time? Those are the conversations we have to have."
Borges defeated his tea party opponent Tom Zawistowski 48 votes to 7 during a vote by the state GOP central committee. But he later acknowledged the state organization must do a better job communicating with the grassroots.
"The thing that I hear more than anyone else is that there are folks who just feel that they aren't listened to," said Borges. "I've already been making sure that Ohio Republicans across the state have an opportunity to hear from the state Party and have their concerns listened to and passed along through the appropriate channels. I think it's remarkable how communication can go a long way."
But Zawistowski disagrees that Borges has done much to reach out to tea party activists and is now threatening a third party movement.
"If you look at the numbers, 8 percent consider themselves the tea party," said Zawistowski. "Eight percent of 8 million registered voters is 645,000 people. Most of our people are in the Republican Party. If they go to the tea party, who will be the biggest party and who will be the smallest party?"
Zawistowski relentlessly attacked Borges, Kasich and Sen. Rob Portman during his campaign for state chairman. Last month, over 80 tea party and conservative organizations signed a letter complaining about the direction of the state GOP.
Borges dismisses the rift and said it will not distract the state organization from reelecting the entire slate of incumbents next year.
"We have a lot of outreach to do," said Borges. "I hate to say 'they' when referring to the tea party because it's all of us. We're part of a big Republican family."
Before the state GOP committee, Zawistowski attacked Portman for changing his position of same sex marriage, and pointed to Kasich's push for Medicaid expansion, expressing doubt he can win reelection next year.
"We elected John Kasich the first time, he only won by two points," said Zawistowski. "For him to do these things against our wishes, it's really unsettling to us."
Ohio Democrats have been heavily critical of Borges who has been plagued with questions about his state and federal taxes.
"The promotion of Kasich-loyalist Matt Borges to the post of Republican chairman means the Governor's political machine will be run by a tax-cheat and admitted influence peddler," said Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Matt McGrath.