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Tea Party Candidates Struggle in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The founder of the Cincinnati Tea Party established himself this week as the most prominent member of his movement to win an election nationwide.

Mike Wilson won a four-way GOP primary for the 28th District Ohio House seat. He faces Democrat Connie Pillich on Nov. 2.

But in statewide primary elections Tuesday, the Ohio Tea Party didn't gain much steam as establishment Republicans trounced insurgent candidates for state office.

In Indiana, where voters also went to the polls Tuesday, not a single congressional incumbent challenged in a primary was defeated. Both former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, who got the GOP Senate nomination, and Larry Buchson, who won the GOP nomination in the 8th District, survived criticism from tea party activists that they were too close to the GOP party establishment. But neither's win was overwhelming.

Ohio's and Indiana's primaries provided an early glimpse into the potential electoral power of the anti-Obama, smaller government tea party movement.

There were signs that tea party's strength is building within the Ohio Republican Party. In Southwest Ohio, about 88 percent of state Republican Party central committee candidates backed by the Ohio Tea Party won Tuesday; statewide, the figure was around 40 percent

Of the 51 Tea Party PAC-supported candidates for the Republican State Central Committee, 20 won a seat to the 66-member organization, according to Gongwer News Service, which covers Columbus. The central committee controls endorsements and influences party finances.

Herb Asher, a political science professor at Ohio State University, called Wilson the most visible tea party candidate to win nationwide. What this might foretell for November is unclear. Only 22 percent of Ohio voters went to the polls Tuesday.

The Ohio Republican Party mailed hundreds of thousands of campaign fliers to Republican voters statewide, praising incumbents and saying they were endorsed by the party. The mailers also carried a logo proclaiming "Tea Party Values," leaving challengers particularly upset.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine of Fairborn said Tuesday's results demonstrate the GOP is alive and well in Ohio.

"I'm encouraged by the passionate debate that engaged so many new people in the process, and I hope we can now unite and move forward as one party to victory in November," DeWine said.

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