Ted Stevenot, Ohio Liberty Coalition’s newly elected president, detailed steps to influence politics at the local level which led to “Mean Jean” Schmidt’s early retirement from the US House. He demonstrated the potential and power of the liberty movement at Libertas‘ February meeting in West Chester.
“Ted vs. the Man”
Stevenot recounted his campaign strategy to unseat incumbent Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (OH-2) in the 2012 Republican primary. Schmidt represented a southern Ohio district which included Clermont County – aka Ted’s turf and home of the Clermont County Tea Party.
According to Stevenot, “80% of US congressional districts are controlled by a single party.” Gerrymandered or irregularly drawn districts are designed to protect incumbents or parties and are usually considered “safe” districts.
“Between 2002 and 2008 in the US, only 12 members of House of Representatives lost their seats in a primary challenge…13 members of the House of Representatives died of natural causes,” leading Stevenot to the conclusion that “God recalls more incumbent politicians than the voters do. It’s a very rare thing.”
“For an incumbent to get challenged and lose only happened 3 times last year… one of the places it happened was in Clermont County in the 2nd district in Ohio.”
Rewind to 2009 when Stevenot was “just a guy” sitting on his couch “shouting at the TV” asking himself what he could do.
“The tipping point was the healthcare law. I started a company 20 years ago – a health insurance agency…when I saw healthcare coming…I got off my couch and started the Clermont Tea Party.”
Clermont County Tea Party held their first meeting in December 2009. Ted’s primary goal – grow the group.
He met Rick Herron who advocated the importance of central committee, which Stevenot describes as “the inside baseball…the secret”.
After learning about central committee, Stevenot admits “I didn’t get it all the first time”, but decided “ok, we’re going to do this.”
Fast forward to February 2010 filing deadline for central committee…
How many people get to ballot and don’t like any of the candidate choices?
Stevenot wanted to break the party stranglehold of crony insiders at the county level by gaining control of the central committee.
Stevenot says we need to focus on local races and separate from “cult of personality” D.C. national races.
“All politics is local.”
A precinct is an incredibly influential “building block of political power” of approximately 1000 voters. Each precinct elects one representative for county central committee in the primary.
Clermont is a single party district with 200 precincts.
Putting the math together. How does a “majority” of 7 control 29 positions?
Union Township has 42 precincts and previously had 13 elected central committee members. “No one showed up to run” in the other 29 precincts.
The township chairman was elected by a majority vote of 7 of 13 members – then appointed 29 central committee members for the remaining open precincts.
In 2010, Stevenot found 26 other liberty minded people to engage in “citizen jury duty”. Most ran unopposed – 23 were elected.
At the Republican reorganization meeting, “We take over the central committee of that township.”
“As citizens, we blow their infrastructure right out of the water. We get to pick the open spots… now we have 29 votes on central committee.”
Stevenot says many central committee members are employees or cronies of the county or state government structure. That puts them in a position to appoint, endorse, and support people they like.
A handful of people ran for 200 precinct positions – a fraction of those formed coalitions to control a few positions of power.
Central committee can vote to endorse candidates.
“If a central committee votes to endorse a candidate in the primary, that person generally has a 90% chance of winning the primary.”
In single party districts like Clermont County, the candidate who wins the primary wins the general. Only one out of four votes in the primary. In one party districts, it’s all decided in the primary.
The much larger voter turnout in November does not really decide the election.
Who’s really making decisions about primary candidates? A handful of elected people making endorsements on central committee.
In March 2012, most voters were focused on the presidential primary, not local races. Stevenot concludes that we are damaged by our focus on “the shiny object”, i.e. the presidential race.
“People do not understand the system – I don’t think that the people who are entrenched in the system are too interested in telling people about it.”
The left is aware of the importance and value of this position. According to Stevenot, 66 to 75% of percent of central committee are teacher’s union members.
In the tall weeds….details, details.
Union Township’s party reorganization meeting was followed by a countywide reorganization meeting. The party chairman was unopposed.
Stevenot was nominated as opposition candidate for party vice-chairman. “We were there to upset the apple cart.”
Wearing shorts and sandals, and no prepared speech, Stevenot gave his “liberty lost” speech. He was elected Vice Chairman of the Clermont County Republican Party.
“Six months earlier I didn’t even know what central committee was.”
“It shows this gate is undefended. We come out of nowhere. We come out of nowhere and run for these positions and win and are now in management of the party.”
“This is YOU. This is your home precinct. This story needs to be told…to thousands.”
Stevenot worked to build coalitions and run candidates against the establishment for county commissioner, prosecutor, including Stevenot for state rep.
Stevenot opted not to run and be “that one guy in Columbus. It’s more fun being a pirate.”
“Deep down the rabbit hole”…
In November 2011, the central committee voted on candidate endorsements for the March 2012 primary.
Congresswoman Jean Schmidt and challenger Brad Wenstrup split the vote, with Schmidt up by one – but not the 60% needed for endorsement. The central committee broke Schmidt’s endorsement, so she was not listed on the Republican sample ballot.
A sitting congresswoman did not have her name on the Republican sample ballot. “That is HUGE!”
Schmidt doesn’t work for us anymore – buh bye…
Challenger Brad Wenstrup defeated Congresswoman Schmidt in the March primary with 50.16% to Schmidt’s 41.75% – a difference of 2388 votes.
It does not take a huge number of votes.
In Clermont’s U.S. House (OH-2) race,
Power to the people…”You are more powerful than you know.”
Clermont Liberty PAC was formed. The group made contact with 20,000 voters in 2010.
The grassroots volunteers and voters who helped pass Ohio’s Healthcare Freedom Amendment, in every county and with nearly 66% of the vote in 2011, are still out there.
Controlling central committee, gaining access and strong coalitions gives the ability to put principled, well-qualified candidates in positions at every level of government. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
This is something anyone can do and “have a seat at the table of power.” Every county has open central committee seats. An analysis of Hamilton County revealed…”44 or 46% of the precincts don’t have anyone to run.”
“This gives people a voice that don’t currently have voice” and the opportunity to build coalitions with other groups.
Ohio is politically and economically FUBAR. “No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio.”
The secret is out. “No one is taking this space in the GOP” and their “brand is marginalized”. “They built weakness in their own system.”
Stevenot emphasized the importance of precinct and street organizing, building neighborhood coalitions, and repeated face to face contact with voters.
- Build a foothold
- Continue frequent voter contact between elections
- Build voter database
- Don’t give up principles
- Use social media to share message
Don’t miss the opportunity to hear Rick Herron from Clermont Tea Party present “Project Gavel” at Anderson Tea Party meeting on Tuesday, February 26 at 7 pm. The group meets at Anderson Center, 7850 Five Mile Road (Community Room B, First Floor).
Stevenot and Clermont County Tea Party exemplify what focused, principled, liberty minded individuals can accomplish.
“It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”–Samuel Adams
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