In a soft, biographical ad, Ohio treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel laces up his old combat boots, the Marine veteran “ready to answer the call” once again.
To return to Iraq? No, this time, to the U.S. Senate. “Washington is broken,” an announcer intones.
Other aspects of the campaign to unseat the incumbent, Democrat Sherrod Brown, aren’t so warm and fuzzy. Republican Mandel is already so deep in, well, sleaze, that he should be strapping on chest waders instead.
On April 19, this space posed the question: How low will Josh Mandel go?
Monday, new depths were reached, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sending out a link to a story on a conservative website that revived 26-year-old domestic violence allegations made against Brown during a messy divorce.
Before getting into the details, let’s dispel the notion that there is any meaningful degree of separation between the Mandel campaign and the efforts of the NRSC, the campaign arm of the Senate GOP.
When asked about the link, a Mandel spokesman declined to respond. That silence represents a tacit endorsement of the message.
The website, the Washington Free Beacon, argues that Brown, a strong supporter of reauthorizing a law to curb violence against women, is vulnerable because his campaign has pressed Mandel to clarify his position on the bill and because Brown and other Democrats were ready to frame a fight over the bill as part of a Republican “war on women.” The bill recently passed the Senate.
The truth is that Mandel is the one who is vulnerable.
The domestic violence charges, made in 1986? Brown’s ex-wife, Larke Recchie, has since called them “angry words” made during “an unfriendly ordeal.” She endorses her ex-husband’s re-election campaign.
When Brown feared a similar attack would be made during his 2006 campaign, Recchie even cut an ad with Brown’s wife, Connie Schultz, and children Emily, Elizabeth and Caitlin condemning the charges as “false” and “disgusting.”
The ad was never used in the 2006 campaign. It was released this week, Recchie calling the domestic violence issue “dirty campaigning.”
Mandel’s position on the Violence Against Women Act?
Throughout the campaign, Mandel has resisted taking positions on issues before the Senate, declining to cast what he calls “imaginary votes.” His own position on the Violence Against Women Act remains unclear, which makes the attack on Brown even more brazen.
Mandel’s campaign told the Plain Dealer he favors a “clean reauthorization” of the bill, but failed to provide any details about what additions in Senate bill he finds objectionable.
The law’s reach was expanded to include protections for American Indians and homosexuals. If that’s what Mandel objects to, he should say so.
Instead, he runs warm and fuzzy biographical ads and lets others stick the knife in Brown.
An ugly tone was also set this week in the U.S. House race between Republican Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and Betty Sutton of Copley Township, incumbents who were thrown together in the new 16th U.S. House District in Northeastern Ohio when congressional maps were redrawn by the state legislature.
Democrat Sutton was attacked by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House counterpart of the outfit that smeared Brown, for failing to condemn the anarchist plot to blow up the Route 82 bridge over the Cuyahoga River.
Using the thin connection that the would-be bombers were members of Occupy Cleveland, the Republcian committee zeroed in on Sutton’s appearance at an Occupy Wall Street rally in New York City last fall.
The punch line was: “Sutton’s cowardly silence shows she would rather riot with Occupy than stand up for Ohio families.”
Leaving aside the fact that Renacci, a Republican, didn’t issue a press release on the bridge bombers until about an hour after the NRCC blast, PolitiFact Ohio gave the charge that Sutton engaged in a riot in New York a “Pants on Fire” rating. News coverage indicated the rally was peaceful.
(PolitiFact Ohio is a partnership of the Plain Dealer and PolitiFact.com, a Pulitzer Prize-winning website of the Tampa Bay Times.)
Like Mandel, Renacci let a technically separate campaign committee do his dirty work, hiding behind the fiction that the two organizations operate independently.
This week’s attacks lower already dismal standards of political conduct, the GOP candidates betting the voters will not connect the dots to make them accountable.
Hoffman is a Beacon Journal editorial writer. He can be reached at 330-996-3740 or emailed at email@example.com.