Columbus -- The head of the Portage County Tea Party thinks like-minded Ohioans will refrain from voting for most statewide Republicans in November, focusing their attention on legislative races instead.
Tom Zawistowski, a onetime challenger for the chairmanship of the Ohio Republican Party, said state Treasurer Josh Mandel and Auditor Dave Yost may garner support from liberty groups. But Gov. John Kasich and others aren't currying much favor with the state's Tea Parties.
"I think the general feeling is that they're going to sit it out," Zawistowski said during a stop this week at the Statehouse. "... I think our people are going to be focused on U.S. Senate races across the country and trying to help by making phone calls and trying to help win the U.S. Senate."
Zawistowski and other conservatives have been at odds with Kasich and other Statehouse Republicans over a series of policy decisions, namely an expansion of Medicaid eligibility that opponents view as an endorsement of President Barack Obama's signature health care law and out-of-control government spending and debt.
Zawistowski also mentions Kasich's support of a school levy in Cleveland and plan to bond turnpike revenues to pay for infrastructure projects among issues of contention. He called the latter a "$4 billion gift from the taxpayers to Northeast Ohio construction unions. ... Those are not things that make our state stronger and led in the direction we wanted to go. That's not what we expected from the Republican governor."
He added, "... If you're doing things that we think hurt our country, to not advance our cause, then we can't support you. It's just that simple."
Chris Schrimpf, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, said Zawistowski isn't speaking for the Tea Party.
"... That was made clear a few weeks ago," he said in a released statement. "He encouraged his followers to skip over Kasich in the primary and vote for other Republicans, Kasich finished with tens of thousands of more votes than anyone else."
He added, "The Tea Party has a natural home in the Republican Party and Ohio Republicans have delivered with the largest tax cut in the nation, a balanced budget, and over 250,000 new jobs. We continue to share our message of results with across Ohio and are seeing great support that we believe will continue through the election."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.