A loss that’s still a victory

Jamie Shearer

Note: I tried to get ahold of the Portage Dem. chair and he didn’t get back to me, so I called the president of the College Dems. I also tried to get ahold of the Portage Rep. chair and he did email me back, but never set a time to talk (I can’t really wait any longer on that). The reason I did the story was because I thought it was interesting that Owens got 11 percent to begin with, and also that it was the highest in the state.

In the recent election, the Portage County TEA Party endorsed 16 candidates for Ohio offices. Twelve of those candidates won their races. One of the four who didn’t was Robert Owens, Constitution Party candidate for attorney general.

Although Owens expected to get about 10 percent of the vote in the state and only received 3.41 percent, he still won 11 percent of the vote in Portage County, which was also the highest percentage vote in all 88 Ohio counties. And Owens credits the TEA Party for this.

“It goes to show the strength of the TEA Party in Portage County,” he said.

The Portage County TEA Party was one of three tea parties in the state to endorse Owens.

The decision to endorse him was a controversial one, according to Tom Zawistowski, executive director of the Portage County TEA Party.

It started when TEA Party people across the state tried to get on the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee, which is the main influence in recruiting and endorsing candidates in the state. It actually has rules about endorsements in its bylaws. Article 6 section 2 says, “The Committee shall not endorse non-incumbent statewide candidates in contested Republican primaries.”

After the Ohio Republican Party fought to keep their own members on the committee, the TEA Party won about 22 seats, which was not enough to have influence on the 66-seat committee. The party’s chairman is Kevin DeWine, second cousin of Mike DeWine, who won the race in the state for attorney general.

“It angered us because here the Republican Party, who was going to be the beneficiary of our efforts, was saying, ‘We want your votes, but we don’t want you,’” Zawistowski said.

So when it came to endorsing a candidate for attorney general, the TEA Party decided to endorse Owens.

Owens wanted to run for the office, which he refers to as the “conduit for pay-to-play politics,” to make light of the corruption and make significant changes to the office.

“He’s just head and shoulders above both (Richard Cordray and Mike DeWine),” Zawistowski said. “And is certainly the most conservative. And frankly when we looked at their records, we felt that Cordray was more conservative than DeWine.”

While it was a seat the TEA Party knew wasn’t going to be easy, it was a no-lose situation.

“We had nothing to lose, because we were perfectly happy with Cordray compared to DeWine,” Zawistowski said.

Chrissy Francisco, president of the College Democrats, said she thought Cordray was a great candidate.

“I’m actually pleased that (Zawistowski) agreed,” she said.

Cordray did win the vote in Portage County with 47 percent. DeWine lost by 9 percent in the county but won by 2 percent in the state.

But if the Republican Party doesn’t change from how its been in the past, Zawistowski warns of a third party.

“I’ve said (to the Republican Party), ‘There’s only one thing that’s for certain, the day we become a political party, you will be the third party,’” he said.

Francisco thinks the TEA Party has a strong enough backing to become a political party and even contend with the Republican Party, but she doesn’t think the Republican Party would go away.

“I don’t think the Republican Party would ever be removed from office,” she said.