Last year’s battle for control of the Ohio Republican Party divided Republicans throughout the state. Ultimately, Kasich was able to gather enough votes on the Central Committee to oust then-Chairman Kevin DeWine, partially with the support of the Tea Party. He pissed off quite a few Republicans in the process, and the way he’s chosen to lead the party is likely to anger a heck of a lot more.
While power and control of party resources was clearly the reason for the coup, Kasich supporters gave many other reasons for wanting DeWine out. The Kasich cheerleaders over at ThirdBasePolitics called Chairman Kevin DeWine “the most corrupt chairman of the Ohio Republican Party ever”. Others complained about his wishy-washy positions on social issues. Kasich’s people claimed DeWine didn’t “carry the Republican agenda.”
While much less public, the fight over who was to replace DeWine waged behind the scenes. Former Chairman Bob Bennet was chosen as a temporary leader until Team Kasich could come up with their final pick.
Today the Kasich-controlled Central Committee elected Matt Borges to the job with a vote of 48 to 7 over his Tea Party opponent Tom Zawistowski.
Kasich’s hand-picked candidate may have won the vote, but this is far from a win for Kasich. There will be continued backlash against Kasich and the Ohio GOP from the Tea Party and other “true believers” primarily because every reason they gave for ousting DeWine can now be applied to Borges and the Governor.
Start with Zawistowski. The fact that Borges had a Tea Party opponent is already pretty telling. Kasich counted on their support to win control of the Central Committee. And now he’s getting challenged by them for his pick to lead the party. And it comes down to Kasich’s agenda, and Borges’ assumed support for it.
Weeks before announcing his plan to challenge Borges, Zawistowski sent a letter to Kasich calling his agenda, which includes expanding medicaid, increasing state spending and taxing oil and gas exploration, “a betrayal of the party platform and our conservative values.”
The letter, signed by “over 80 social and fiscal conservative leaders”, also ripped Borges for being wishy-washy on social issues, mentioning his time as a “lobbyist for the liberal homosexual activist group, Equality Ohio.”
While 3BP gave no actual evidence DeWine had done anything illegal, Borges pleaded guilty to actual corruption charges back in 2004 for helping to funnel state business to campaign donors. And just recently it was revealed that Borges had racked up somewhere between $100K and $500K in unpaid taxes.
This guy is now in charge of all Republican Party finances. What could possibly go wrong?
As a Democrat who supports marriage equality, fair taxes and expanded healthcare coverage, I think anything that keeps right-wing ideologues like Zawistowski from getting more power and resources is a good thing.
But if I were a Republican who supported Kasich’s ouster of DeWine over corruption, social issues or failure to toe the party line, I would be seriously pissed right now.