Ohio tea party groups are trying a new strategy: aiming for offices farther down the ballot in the state's primary because unseating Republican incumbents in Congress has proven difficult.
It's a long-term goal of trying to shape the GOP from within by finding conservative candidates to run for low-profile offices who can grow their careers from there, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"It's the bottom of the ticket that is most important to us," Ann Becker, president of the Cincinnati Tea Party, told the Journal.
A tea party group, Ohio Citizens PAC, has endorsed 26 candidates running for Ohio Senate or House seats in addition to 39 candidates running for the Republican State Central Committee.
However, party leaders argue that Republicans in the Buckeye State are happy with the conservative credentials of GOP officeholders.
"Republican incumbents in Ohio, whether in the statehouse or federal delegation, have governed in a way that any conservative would be proud of,'' Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for the Ohio GOP, told the Journal. "That is why we are confident our incumbents will enjoy the broad support of primary voters on Tuesday."
Indiana and North Carolina are also holding primaries on Tuesday.
Former Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio, who is now president of Main Street Partnership, a group pushing moderate Republicans, said the tea party groups "remain potent at the grass-roots level," according to the Journal
He added, "You may wake up Wednesday morning and find the central committee of the Ohio Republican Party populated with a lot more members of the tea party."
Party offices, in state and county central committees, provide the best opportunity for tea party Republicans to make the biggest gains.
Becker told the Journal that there are over 300 tea party Republicans on the ballot for precinct committee seats just in the southwest section of Ohio. Central committees play an important role by helping to advance candidates and shape the party.
She was elected to the Butler County Central Committee in 2010.
"This is the long game for us," Becker said. "I plan on being on the central committee for the rest of my life."
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