Tea party activist Ted Stevenot won't challenge Ohio Gov. John Kasich in Republican primary

CINCINNATI -- A southwest Ohio tea party leader has decided against pursuing the Republican nomination for governor.

Local conservative activist Ted Stevenot announced Saturday he will not offer a challenge to Gov. John Kasich in the 2014 party primary race. The news came just days before he was scheduled to formally declare his candidacy in Columbus, Ohio.

“On January 1st, I released an announcement about a press conference originally scheduled to occur 1:00 PM, January 7th in Columbus to announce my candidacy for Ohio Governor in the upcoming Republican primary," he wrote in a release Saturday night. "Though my running mate, Brenda Mack, and I have received a tremendous outpouring of support and encouragement since that announcement, I have decided not to run for governor at this time.”

Stevenot was expected to introduce Mack, of Canfield, as his running mate at the news conference, which has since been canceled. Mack is former president of the Ohio Black Republicans Association and someone Stevenot has worked with in the past.

While the timing of the announcement was surprising, Stevenot said his decision was not based on any "concerns about my running mate." He also contends he is withdrawing his name from the race reluctantly, citing difficulties stemming from the fact he is a "common person."

"I (withdraw from the race) reluctantly, because I know that part of what has gone wrong with our political process is that the two major parties have made it exceedingly difficult for a common person to run for office," said Stevenot, who co-founded an insurance company in suburban Cincinnati. "This is not good for our Republic or for our citizens who, as a result, often do not have their best interests represented by elected officials."

In addition to his role in insurance business, Stevenot is past president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition , a group with a mission to "affect policy in favor of liberty," according to the organization's website.  

He said he plans to continue to play an active role in the "liberty movement," which aims to open up pathways to allow "everyday citizens" to be more actively involved in future elections.

"The liberty movement, in which I will continue to be actively engaged, is working to open up the elective process to more everyday citizens as was intended by our founding fathers," he said. "While this may not be the right time and race for me personally, I remain confident that our movement will ultimately be successful in restoring more voting freedom in the very near future.”

Stevenot is among Ohio conservatives who think Gov. John Kasich has been moving away from the right. They have been particularly critical of the governor's push to expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

The Executive Director of the Portage County Tea Party, Tom Zawistowski , told The Associated Press that the tea party supporters still hope to field an alternative to Kasich by the Feb. 5 deadline.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune has announced his plans to seek the Democratic nomination. He will take on Ed FitzGerald of Cuyahoga County.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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