Ohio Democrats say a recent campaign mailer from the Ohio Republican Party went too far in attempting to portray a Statehouse hopeful as neglecting her duty regarding the firing of an accused child rapist.
The mailer distributed this week comes as new fundraising filings show Belmont County Commissioner Ginny Favede outraised incumbent Republican Rep. Andy Thompson of Marietta in the nearly 50/50 district.
It’s one of several examples of negative ads that have mostly hit Democrats in legislative races this cycle. (See separate story)
The flier cites meeting minutes to show Ms. Favede’s absence at an emergency meeting where commissioners voted to terminate the Belmont County employee.
“A government employee was accused of being a rapist,” the mailer reads. “County commissioners called an emergency meeting. Action had to be taken. Where was Ginny Favede?”
Ms. Favede said her absence was due to a business trip to Columbus that day where she represented Belmont County at a meeting of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio. She and the House Democratic Caucus, who said the candidate was in touch with her colleagues, took strong objection to Republicans’ insinuation she failed to support the termination of the employee in question.
“I am highly regarded as a children’s advocate and disgusted that anyone would utilize this in this manner,” said Ms. Favede, who lists helping found a children’s advocacy center in Wheeling, W.V., in 2003 and a satellite office in Belmont County among her accomplishments.
“Unfortunately, when politicians choose to politicize a child rape, they are re-victimizing that child. I believe the people should expect more of their elected officials,” she said. “I am greatly disappointed and the actions and the choices of Representative Andy Thompson.”
Rep. Thompson said he “had no connection” to the mailer.
“I tried personally to keep it on a positive level,” he said of his campaign. “We draw contrast, but we don’t really get engaged in that kind of thing so I can’t really take credit for that. I wouldn’t want to take credit for that.”
He said he is only “vaguely” aware of the situation, and couldn’t comment on the mailer’s claims.
“If there’s something they’re saying that’s untrue, I would denounce that,” Rep. Thompson said. “If there’s something that happens to be the truth, but it’s uncomfortable, that would be a different situation.”
ORP spokeswoman Brittany Warner defended the mailer.
“Ginny Favede might have went to Columbus for 10:00 a.m. meeting, but that doesn’t explain why she was absent from a 4:45 p.m. emergency meeting in Belmont County,” Ms. Warner said. “This mail piece is factual and questions her absence on a very serious matter in Belmont County.”
House Democratic Caucus Executive Director Aaron Fisher described that take as a “pivot.”
“It’s totally ignoring the fact that you’re attempting to score political points after a child has been a victim of sexual assault,” he said.
Mr. Fisher blasted the flier, adding that, “Politics truly do not get any dirtier and lower than this.”
“Not only is Thompson seeking to benefit from these terrible and heartbreaking circumstances, but he is misrepresenting the teamwork and tough decisions of three Belmont County commissioners as inattentive when, in fact, their efforts kept the community safe while simultaneously handling all other county business,” Mr. Fisher said.
Ms. Favede said that in the face of negative campaign ads from Republicans, she’s adopted a quote from Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high.”
But whether that mantra – popularized in recent weeks by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in her campaign against GOP nominee Donald Trump – will work for Ms. Favede in the Trump-friendly coal country district remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, pre-general election filings submitted Thursday gave Ms. Favede the advantage in the most recent filing period – raising $65,467 compared to Rep. Thompson’s $51,504. In addition, Ms. Favede reported having $54,206 in cash on hand, which is twice the $26,167 on hand Rep. Thompson reported.
Ms. Favede spent $72,442 during the period, including sending $60,000 to the Ohio House Democratic Caucus in support of her campaign. Rep. Thompson spent nearly the same amount – $69,584, including $45,000 to the Ohio House Republican Organizational Committee.
Most of Ms. Favede’s largest contributions came from union groups, while Rep. Thompson earned just one donation over $1,000 – a $10,000 gift from frequent Republican donor Ginni Ragan.
Ms. Favede said the level of attacks directed at her so far attest to the strength of her candidacy in a highly-competitive priority district.
“I have a strong reputation of being a hard worker, being honest, working across the aisle and getting things done and I think that resonates,” she said.
And Rep. Thompson said he’ll continue to keep his campaign focused on the issues at hand.
“My preference is to focus on what I’m doing and my record,” Rep. Thompson said.