The front-runner to be the next leader of the Ohio Republican Party is facing an eleventh-hour call from within his own party to step aside.
In a Monday letter to state GOP central committee members, Ashtabula County Republican Party Chair Charlie Frye asked Matt Borges to withdraw his candidacy.
Frye said Borges is unfit to lead the state party, citing a report from earlier this month by our Columbus Bureau that found Borges owed $168,161 in unpaid federal taxes and thousands more in state taxes. Frye also cited Borges’ 2004 misdemeanor ethics conviction and previous lobbying work for a gay-rights group.
Frye said in his letter that Lake Party Chair Dale Fellows agreed to toss his hat in the ring if Borges were to drop out.
“For this reason I respectfully ask Matt to withdraw his name at this time and would encourage all to support Dale Fellows, including Tom Zawistowski,” a tea party activist from Portage County who is the only official challenger to Borges.
Borges said in a phone interview he will not be withdrawing. He paid his state tax bill on Tuesday, which had been reduced from about $98,000 to about $4,000, and said he will have a payment plan in place for his federal tax bill by the time the state party picks a new chair this Friday.
“As always, I take nothing for granted. I’ll stand before the committee on Friday and ask them for their support, and I look forward to the privilege, if I’m elected to leading the party in the future,” Borges said.
As recently as last month, Borges, the state party’s current executive chair, seemed to have the party’s top position cinched after he gained written endorsements from all of Ohio’s top Republican elected officials.
But he has faced questions down the home stretch.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted on Monday told the Associated Press that they didn’t know about Borges’ tax bill when they gave their endorsements. A group of self-identified leaders in the tea party movement have also publicly opposed Borges’ candidacy.
Following on a tip, our Columbus Bureau examined tax records filed in the offices of the Franklin County Recorder and Clerk of Courts to uncover the back taxes owed by Matt Borges. We have a team of three reporters working in Columbus to bring you the latest state government news. Follow our team on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics