When the facts don’t matter

In this installment of The Middle, the Ohio Midterm race for senate and how Jim Renacci (R) has run a baseless smear campaign against Senator Sherrod Brown.

By Alex Kamczyc / Edited by Julie Reidel

It was during the first midterm senate debate, on Oct. 14, unsurprisingly when the recent nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh was brought into the spot light. This hot button issue has been asked in almost every debate across the nation so far.

“Many people on both sides of the aisle, though for different reasons, say that the recent confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh were a low point for the senate and for political discourse,” asked Ann Fisher, a WOSU media correspondent and one of the debate moderators for the evening. “In retrospect, how should they have been handled differently?”

The question was directed to Sherrod Brown, the incumbent senator of Ohio, who provided a long response explaining his logic behind voting against Kavanaugh. Citing his track record, a long history of siding with corporations over workers, issues with health care and outsourcing jobs. A decision he said he made before Dr. Ford even came forward with her testimony.

The question about how the Kavanaugh hearings should have been held was also asked of Brown’s opponent, Jim Renacci. But instead of providing an answer to the question, Renacci chose to bring up a decades old spat Brown had with an ex-wife.

“If you’re going to start setting a conduct for unsubstantiated claims, you better start setting one for substantiated claims,” Renacci said, criticizing how democrats handled the hearing. “My opponent, Sherrod Brown has volumes of records of substantiated claims of abuse, of spousal abuse and the people of Ohio need to see that, look at it and understand it.”

Here’s the thing, Brown’s ex-wife has walked those statements back and is now supporting Brown for re-election. She has even made a campaign ad asking Renacci to stop attacking her and Brown for what happened back in the 80’s. Yet despite all of this, he instead chose to double down with this angle.

Last week, he spoke to the editorial board of the Cincinnati Enquirer about information regarding multiple women who have come forward to him alone about supposed abuse involving Sherrod Brown and after his divorce in the 80’s. However, when pressed about it, he couldn’t offer up a single shred of evidence to prove that he had anything.

On Thursday, his attorney released a statement detailing the abuse, but offered nothing concrete to go along with the statement. Brown’s camp has responded by issuing a cease and desist to the struggling republican campaign.

I find it ironic that Renacci wanted to preach about unsubstantiated claims involving sexual abuse accusations, while also offering up unsubstantiated claims against Brown. This isn’t a fighting fire with fire situation. This is more of man trying to sell something to people who aren’t buying it.

A hypocrite.

Since Renacci and his campaign won’t stick to the facts here are a few worth mentioning:

-Brown has a 100% approval rating by the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) a pro-choice organization.

-Renacci voted yes to banning federal health coverage, which included abortion.

-Brown has an 87% approval rating from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a 94% approval rating from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and a 100% approval taking by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) indicating that Sherrod Brown is a progressive leader.

-Renacci voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.

Here are where they stand on the current issues regarding Ohio:

-Sherrod Brown, considered a populist by many in the Senate and media is running his platform on drug reform in Ohio, advocating for the agricultural sector of Ohio by protecting farmers through legislation like his recent 2018 Farm bill , expanding healthcare coverage, protecting college students against debt, and fighting for the rights of Vets in Ohio including fighting the homeless problem.

-Renacci, who has close ties with President Trump, is running on a platform not too far off from what many Trumpian politicians are for the Midterm. Renacci’s platform focuses on reforming abortion laws in Ohio, working to prevent illegal immigration in Ohio, healthcare reform and protecting the second amendment among other issues.

Feel free to read more on their track records in their respective offices.

Sherrod Brown is not a perfect Senator, I think that his performance for the last two events has been less than perfect, he comes off as schlubby and unprepared at times. I also think that he doesn’t have a perfect track record in the senate. In 2009, he voted for a congressional pay raise by 2.8% to $174,000 he has also voted “no” against comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 a bill that was seen as a compromise between the Republicans and Democrats.

In the second debate, during the second half of the hour long viewing, Renacci was able to again ask Brown if his past disqualifies himself as eligible to be senator. Brown responded like he did in the first debate.

“Congressmen Renacci, I’ve answered that question numerous times with you, numerous times. My former wife has asked that you stop attacking our family, the state’s newspapers have asked you to stop making these kinds of allegations. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Right after that the moderator asked Renacci, by his own logic, if that disqualified Trump as a politician holding the highest office in the U.S. Referencing court documents filed by Ivana Trump in the 90’s about physical and sexual assault during their divorce. He waffled the question and said it didn’t matter in this senate race, which it does.

It matters because if you start setting a standard for what qualifies a senator, you also need to set a standard for what qualifies a politician working in office, period. End of discussion.

I mentioned in my last piece that republicans have already written off the senate race in both Ohio and Pennsylvania. It’s clear to see why they have: Renacci isn’t a competitor to Brown, having fallen behind nearly 20 points in this race it’s an obvious tactic to try and dig dirt up on a Senator to close that gap.

The problem is that this isn’t any new information, it’s an old tactic countless republican challengers have used against Brown to try and smear his image. The problem is that it has never worked and the reason for that is that Brown is an honorable man. It won’t work now because despite what your politics are, Brown is running an honorable campaign. Unlike Jim Renacci who not only tries to smear his opponents name, but also fails to pay for flights he had during his campaign for governor in planes owned by strip club owners.

I think Brown put it best himself when he addressed Renacci in both debates.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

Alex Kamczyc is an award winning journalist covering politics and culture in Cleveland. He studied at Kent State University under Connie Schultz.

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