By DENISE GRANT
The Republican primary for the 83rd District seat in the Ohio House is quickly becoming the one to watch, but not for the issues as much as the antics of the candidates and their supporters.
Candidate Jon Cross this week filed a complaint with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office claiming that he caught challenger Cheryl Buckland’s husband, Larry Manley, 82, attempting to destroy a Cross campaign sign along U.S. 68, near Jackson Township 168 south of Findlay.
The Buckland campaign says Manley was taking a photograph of the sign and was not damaging it.
The sign is on farm property owned by Steve Oman, a former Hancock County commissioner.
Cross, 39, the president, chief executive officer and economic development director of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance, Kenton, is competing in the May 8 primary with Buckland, 64, of Findlay, a Republican State Central Committee member.
With state Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, running for state treasurer, there is no incumbent in the race. The GOP winner will face Democratic write-in candidate Mary Harshfield, of Findlay, in the November general election.
The 83rd District includes Hancock, Hardin and a portion of Logan counties.
Cross said he was driving south on U.S. 68 this week when he saw Manley walking along the side of the road near a Cross campaign sign. Cross said he pulled to the side of the road and took pictures of Manley standing in front of the sign. According to the report from the sheriff’s office, Cross said Manley saw him stop to take the pictures, and walked away from the sign.
The incident happened at about 8:17 p.m. Monday.
A sheriff’s deputy sent to investigate the complaint found no damage to the sign, and Oman did not seek trespassing charges. The report was then closed by the deputy.
Buckland, in a statement, said her husband was not attempting to vandalize the sign. She said Manley photographed the sign to demonstrate that Cross is publishing disclaimers on the sign as required by Ohio’s elections law. Disclaimers identify the sponsors of campaign ads and materials.
Buckland said her husband took the photo to show a citizen who claimed Cross wasn’t publishing the disclaimers.
“Apparently, other signs are covered with boards and the disclaimer isn’t apparent,” Buckland said in an email statement sent to the sheriff’s office, Cross and several others.
Buckland said she thinks Cross filed the sheriff’s complaint to retaliate for two complaints her campaign filed with the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office about vandalism to her political signs. Buckland said her signs are being vandalized and stolen in Hardin County.
Cross said several of his signs have been damaged in Hancock County.
The sign vandalism allegations are being levied at the same time that political ads about the race, placed by the Conservative Alliance Political Action Committee on WFIN-AM and WKXA-FM radio, are generating controversy.
On April 2, Michael Holman, general manager of Blanchard River Broadcasting, a part of the Findlay Publishing Co., received a “cease and desist” demand from state Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford, asking the ads be pulled.
Householder, a former Ohio House speaker, is seeking re-election to the 72nd District seat in the Ohio House, which represents Licking, Perry and Coshocton counties.
The ads state that Householder was once investigated for taking political kickbacks, and is supporting Cross for the 83rd District House seat. However, the ads are primarily directed at Cross.
The ads claim Cross was fired from a job at the Ohio Statehouse years ago for falsifying timecards. It also accuses him of supporting liberals during time he spent in California.
In an interview with The Courier, Householder said he was investigated about 14 years ago, but no charges were filed.
Cross acknowledged being fired over a timecard dispute nearly 20 years ago when he worked as a state legislator’s aide. Both called the radio ads misleading.
Buckland said the ads are not being sponsored by her campaign committee, and that groups “outside the individual candidate’s control” may run ads.
Federal law requires broadcasters to validate claims made by political action committees in advertisements. Officials at the radio stations pulled the ads temporarily to investigate Householder’s complaint, but found no reason to stop them altogether.
The Conservative Alliance, a super PAC, filed a “statement of organization” with the Ohio secretary of state on March 29. A super PAC is a type of independent political action committee which may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals but is not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates.
While the filing does not identify its organizers, the PAC will be required to file spending reports. The pre-election spending report deadline is April 26 in Ohio. The report will list donors and expenses.
Meanwhile, supporters of the two candidates have also sent out competing mailers to voters.
The Conservative Alliance PAC sent a mailing claiming that Cross is “not one of us.” The mailer says Cross is a “San Francisco-style liberal trying to fool Ohio conservatives,” and shows an old Volkswagen van with “peace and love” painted on the side.
A PAC identifying itself as “Growth & Opportunity Pac Inc.” fired back this week with a mailer that portrays Buckland as a “political insider,” a “swamp creature,” and claims she never supported “Trump Republicans.”
Cross said his campaign had nothing to with the “swamp creature” ads.
The Courier found no registration for the Growth & Opportunity PAC with either the Ohio secretary of state or the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday.
A website is listed on the mailer: www.growthandopportunitypac.org. The address returns a website that is currently under construction.