National Republicans appear to have missed out on a top candidate to run against Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio), as Ohio state Sen. Jimmy Stewart (R) is signaling he will take a pass on the race.

Stewart was in Washington last month meeting with the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), but the Athens News reported Thursday that he has all but ruled out running.

"I don't anticipate running for Congress next year," Stewart told the paper. "It's a difficult decision, but I'm going to leave it up to someone else."

Republicans have gone hard after Space, including running an early TV ad against him this year. But they were unable to mount a serious campaign against him in his first reelection bid last year and are without a top candidate this cycle.

Republicans renewed their search for a challenger after Space cast a dicey vote in favor of the Democratic energy bill last month. Space, who represents a big coal-producing district, has since stuck by his vote.

Attorney Jeanette Moll, who lost in the GOP primary last year, is so far the only candidate in the race. She raised a modest $60,000 in the second quarter.

Space's district went for Sen. John McCainJohn McCainOvernight Defense: Senate panel passes defense policy bill | House panel presses on with markup | Trump officials say WH statement prevented Syria chemical attack | NATO pledges to raise spending Senate panel passes 0B defense policy bill GOP infighting erupts over healthcare bill MORE (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential race.