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 McCainMcCain responds to North Korean criticism to calling Kim Jong-un 'crazy fat kid' Overnight Finance: Dems seek probe of acting SEC chief | Defense hawks say they won't back short-term funding | Senate seen as start point for Trump infrastructure plan | Dems want more money for IRS Overnight Defense: Pentagon considers more troops for Afghanistan | McCain, Graham won't back short-term funding | GOP defends Trump rules of engagement MORE (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential race.