The Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition's 2018 e-slate card, which steers voters to the most conservative candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot, suggests choosing Republicans for all statewide offices except in the race between DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray.
Its advice: Pick Libertarian Travis Irvine or leave the ballot blank.
"A lot of people walk into that voting booth thinking you have to vote for all of those races. You can leave them blank if you want," said John McAvoy, Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition board member and leader of the Toledo Tea Party.
The move is evidence that despite efforts to align himself with President Trump, the most right-leaning or conservative Ohio voters may not come out in force to support DeWine. Coalition members question whether the attorney general supports their values and say he's too closely aligned with Gov. John Kasich, who has fallen out with some in the state Republican Party.
In a statement, the DeWine campaign said the Republican has support in northwest Ohio.
"We are extremely proud of the strong support Mike DeWine and Jon Husted received in Northwest Ohio in the primary election as well as the strong endorsements we've received from the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Manufacturer's Association, the NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses), the Ohio State Medical Association, and so many more. Our campaign has great support and we're in a great position to lead the Republican Ticket to victory this fall," his campaign said in a statement.
As is typical in the midterms, much comes down to support of the President — who has publicly feuded with the term-limited governor.
"John Kasich is constantly reminding Ohioans and the nation that he doesn't support Trump and will be making a run for the presidential bid in 2020. Yet we are to somehow believe that Trump will lose Ohio if DeWine doesn't win as governor, meanwhile we are supposed to ignore that DeWine is surrounded with Kasich loyalist (sic)," the coalition wrote on its website where voters can search their registration for a recommended slate.
While the PAC supported Kasich in his first run, it did not endorse him in his second, asking voters instead to support the Libertarian candidate who was running as a write-in, Charlie Earl.
The Libertarian Party lost its state ballot access in 2014 and fought the state legislature over tougher rules to get on the ballot. It regained its access this summer after collecting thousands of signatures from all corners of the state.
If Irvine, a 35-year-old journalist and filmmaker, captures 3 percent of the vote then Libertarians can keep access for the next four years, meaning their candidates can appear on the ballot next to their party designation.
That's why it's more important for conservatives to support Libertarians being on the ballot than either of the gubernatorial candidates, said Tom Zawistowski, a leader of the Ohio Tea Party and founder of We the People Convention, who said his party doesn't uniformly support Republicans.
"A vote for Mike DeWine is a vote for eight more years of John Kasich and we have no interest in that at all," he said.
He and McAvoy argue that if Cordray wins, the Republican legislature would be able to keep his policies in check. Conservatives also don't like that both candidates say they would keep Kasich's Medicaid expansion. In 2014, Mr. Irvine started an anti-Kasich PAC, Central Ohioans Countering Kasich.
In Lucas County, the PAC supports Republicans in the races for treasurer and auditor and for judicial seats. For county commissioner, however, it supports independent Sandy Spang over Republican Sandy Bashaw.
Mark Wagoner, Jr., chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, said the county party back DeWine.
"The Lucas County Republican Party stands 100 percent with Mike DeWine and Jon Husted, and those groups who aren't helping the campaign could bear some consequences should Rich Cordray be elected governor in November," he said.
The Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition has raised and spent more than $17,000 in 2017 through June, 2018, ending the month with $1,200 on hand, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
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