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GOP runs gay-baiting ads in two Ohio House races
Columbus--The Ohio Republican Party is paying for anti-LGBT campaign mailings and radio spots in at least two hotly contested Ohio House districts.
The anti-LGBT messages appear to be the only paid advertisements the campaigns have.
In the 85th District south of Columbus, three-term incumbent Republican John Schlichter of Washington Court House is in a tough battle against Democrat Ray Pryor.
In order to gain control of the Ohio House, Democrats need to pick up only four seats, and are expected to do so.
Schlichter’s re-election chances have been hampered by Democrats bringing up his more than $434,000 in debt, including $280,000 unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. The debts result from the failure of Schlichter’s farm.
As an apparent diversion, Schlichter is accusing Pryor of “re-defining the American family” and “opening the doors to special rights for special interests”--meaning that Pryor supports LGBT equality and adoption rights.
“Liberal Ray Pryor supports gay adoption,” a mailer says in large print. Schlichter’s radio ad says Pryor supports a “homosexual agenda.”
“As our state representative, John Schlichter will continue to defend traditional marriage--preserving it as the sacred union between one man and one woman,” the mailers say.
Schlichter’s legislative record is strongly anti-LGBT, including a vote for the 2004 “defense of marriage act.” As a member of the House Education Committee, Schlichter also voted to keep LGBT students out of the state’s anti-bullying law.
When contacted for this report, Schlichter said, “Your readers have nothing to do with my district” and hung up the phone.
Ohio Republican Party officials are refusing to comment, too, as they are in the suburban Columbus 22nd District, where they also paid for anti-LGBT mailings.
That open race is to replace Republican incumbent Jim Hughes. It is another seat where Republicans are having more trouble than they expected.
Republican Mike Keenan, an insurance salesman and Dublin city councilor, is touting his “faith in God” and belief in “strong values” as the reason why he should defeat Democrat John Carney, an attorney.
Carney is endorsed by the Stonewall Democrats of Central Ohio and the Equality Ohio Campaign Fund.
“Our families are the bedrock of society,” says Keenan’s campaign literature. “Michael Keenan will strengthen families by keeping marriage between a man and a woman.”
Keenan also claims that he will “make sure our government maintains respect for our Creator.” He did not respond to requests for comment.
With both a marriage ban law and constitutional amendment in place, it is not clear what either candidate could do to further limit marriage. But an adoption ban bill, stopped in 2006 by House Speaker Jon Husted, could return in a new form.
Schlichter was not a co-sponsor of the 2006 bill to “prohibit an adoptive or foster child from being placed in the private residence of a homosexual, bisexual, or transgender person.”
At the time, however, it was understood that more palatable parts of State Rep. Ron Hood’s proposal could come up later.
Husted is term limited out of the House and did not return calls for comment. As the leader of the Republican caucus, he oversees how campaign money is spent.
Husted’s former chief of staff Scott Borgemenke is now the chief Republican strategist, charged with winning House races.
Borgemenke did not return calls for this report either, but told the Columbus Dispatch, “We didn’t need to run the [gay-baiting] ad last time,” referring to Schlichter’s victory over Pryor two years ago.
“Nobody wants to use it. I don’t like it,” Borgemenke said.
Ohio Republican Party spokesperson Scott McClelland also refused to comment.
In January, McClelland told the Gay People’s Chronicle the GOP was planning to “do a better job reaching out to the LGBT community.”
“We’re not attempting to drive wedges between communities,” McClelland said then.
One of the written questions to McClelland for this story was, “What changed?”
Democrats were not quiet, however.
Governor Ted Strickland told an October 13 Chillicothe rally that Borgemenke is “behind all these ads.”
“It is not good to have these negative attacks used to divide people and to divert attention away from the things that really matter,” Strickland said.
Democratic House Caucus spokesperson Scarlett Bouder called the ads a “shameful response and one that reflects the GOP is choosing to scrape the bottom of the barrel instead of solutions to challenges that people are facing, like jobs and the economy.”
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