Ohio Tea Party activists issued a blast today attacking what they say is a drift of the Republican Party away from its principles.
The letter, signed by 83 people, including several from the Toledo area, cites Ohio U.S. Rob Portman's reversal in favor of same-sex marriage, Gov. John Kasich's budget and tax plans, and a 2004 misdemeanor ethics conviction by the likely next chairman, Matthew Borges.
It says the party should be based on the principles of limited government and low taxation, marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and right to life for unborn children.
"Some of our Republican officials seem hell-bent on alienating conservative voters and volunteers, which reduces voter turnout. They ignore the GOP platform, choosing to put themselves outside the mainstream of our party base,” said Lori Viars, vice president of Warren County Right To Life and vice chairman of the Warren County Republican Party.
"We're not asking the party to do anything. We're just making it clear the state Republican Party officials are not in step with conservatives. They'll be doing their thing and we'll be doing our thing," Viars said.
"I've worked on numerous campaigns. Our phones are always filled with people who are social conservatives and fiscal conservatives," Viars said.
The letter targets Mr. Borges over his misdemeanor conviction from nine years ago but also because it says he lobbied for the "liberal homosexual activist group, Equality Ohio."The release of the letter brought a response from Mr. Borges, currently the executive director of the Ohio Republican Party, that his conviction was the result of a "political witch hunt" and was expunged from the public record.
"Few have done more to elect conservatives to office in Ohio over the last 23 years than I have, and I extend my hand to anyone who wants to join the cause," Mr. Borges said.
Mr. Borges was targeted by a grand jury looking in to "pay to play" allegations in connection with former Ohio Treasurer Joe Deters. He said he will not talk about it anymore.
Mr. Borges, 40, has announced his candidacy for the chairmanship to replace current Chairman Robert Bennett who announced his intent to step down as chairman and accept "chairman emeritus" status on May 31. The state GOP central committee is to meet April 26 to elect the next party leader.
Mr. Borges issued statements provided by several conservative leaders speaking up in his defense, including Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, who said, "Matt Borges has been a strong supporter and friend of Ohio's pro-life movement" and touted his "tremendous experience in winning both local and statewide elections."
J. Kenneth Blackwell, former Ohio Secretary of State, said, "Matt understands the conservative principles we share will lead this state and this country back to prosperity. It’s our ideas that will give people a hand up, help them get back to work, and restore the confidence in our communities.”
Phil Burress, chairman of Citizens for Community Values, the leading opponent of same-sex marriage efforts in the state, issued a statement in support of the tea party letter.
"Increasingly it seems the leadership of the Ohio Republican Party has deliberately chosen to separate itself from the conservative fiscal and social values of the party’s base," Mr. Burress wrote.