An Ohio tea party leader is expected to challenge Gov. John Kasich in the Republican gubernatorial primary on May 6, making good on the threat from some conservatives in the state to oppose Kasich because of his push for Medicaid expansion and some other policies they reject.
Ted Stevenot, 48, of Cincinnati, has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday in Columbus in which he is to declare his candidacy and name his running mate for lieutenant governor: Brenda Mack of Canfield. A news release publicizing Stevenot’s launch was circulated late tonight by Tom Zawistowski, another tea party leader in the state.
Stevenot, according to the release, is a past president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, (as is Zawistowski) and a Cincinnati-area business owner. Mack, 56, is a past president of the Ohio Black Republicans Association.
Stevenot could not be reached for comment, and Zawistowski did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Chris Schrimpf, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party who has served spoken on behalf of Kasich’s re-election campaign, also did not return a message seeking comment.
If the Stevenot-Mack ticket were to collect 1,000 valid signatures from registered voters and submit them to the secretary of state by Feb. 5, Kasich would become the first sitting Ohio governor to face a primary challenge since Gov. James A. Rhodes was opposed by Charles Kurfess in 1978.
Kasich would have a vast advantage in name recognition and campaign cash over Stevenot, who couldn’t start raising money until last month. But at a minimum, Stevenot’s candidacy would show that a group of tea party conservatives – unknown in size but vocal in their opposition to Kasich’s acceptance of of $2.56 billion in federal money under the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid – has taken its frustration with the Republican governor to another level.
Earlier this week, another Cincinnatian, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, formed a committee to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. If Portune qualifies for the ballot, he probably will face Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive and heavy favorite to be the Democrats’ nominee, but Portune has stated he that will not file for the race if he doesn’t gauge that he has enough support in an upcoming statewide tour.
By Joe Vardon - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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