"Not competent." "Not qualified." "Not truthful."
That's how some candidates running for statewide office in the Nov. 7 election describe their opponents.
Candidates are coming in and out of our office over the next few weeks seeking the newspaper's endorsement. They typically spend about an hour with us in which we ask them questions about a wide range of topics and issues.
I have a bad habit of asking multi-part questions that take me quite some time to get out. I also go off on tangents -- anyone who knows me can attest that's true in everyday conversations -- and am easily distracted by shiny objects.
Uh, where was I? Oh, yeah, endorsement meetings.
The candidates for Ohio treasurer, Democrat Richard Cordray and Republican Sandra O'Brien, were here Monday. On Tuesday, Republican Mary Taylor, who's running for auditor, as well as the attorney general candidates, Democrat Marc Dann and Republican Betty Montgomery, were here.
One trend I noticed this week is the statewide candidates are a lot more aggressive in attacking their opponents' credibility and honesty than in previous years.
After a few minutes of talking about the treasurer's office and its responsibilities -- real exciting stuff -- Cordray started discussing problems in the Ashtabula County Auditor's Office. For the past 12 years, O'Brien has served as that county's auditor.
It led me to ask Cordray if she was incompetent. At first, Cordray pointed to state audits of the county done by Montgomery's office saying even a fellow Republican found serious flaws with how O'Brien runs her office.
I asked the question again and Cordray said that yes, O'Brien isn't competent to be Ohio treasurer because she can't handle being the auditor of Ashtabula County.
When asked about Cordray's competence to be state treasurer, O'Brien said that's up to the voters. But she criticized Cordray's lack of experience in county government. He's served as Franklin County treasurer since 2003.
Next up was Taylor. Again, like Cordray it took Taylor a few minutes to go on the attack. Her target was Barbara Sykes, her Democratic opponent in the auditor's race.
Taylor bragged that if elected she'll be the first certified public accountant to ever hold the office.
"She's not trained or qualified or have the understanding as to how the office runs, and I do," Taylor said of Sykes.
Sykes spent more than 20 years as an administrator in the Summit County Auditor's Office. Taylor says that Sykes' job was administrative in nature and didn't have anything to do with auditing.
In response, Samantha Herd, Sykes' campaign manager, said the state auditor's office needs an administrator. The office is filled with CPAs and "they don't need another one," she said.
As I wrote a few weeks back, the attorney general contest between Dann and Montgomery is the most bitter of all the statewide races.
Dann started his interview with the newspaper immediately attacking Montgomery, saying she had the opportunity to detect and prevent the investment scandal at the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation. Montgomery chose to ignore the problems because she put her political party before the well-being of the state's citizens, Dann said.
After a few pleasantries, Montgomery also lit into Dann before my seat got warm. Montgomery said Dann is making blatantly false accusations about her political record and resents the attacks. Dann "either doesn't understand or isn't being truthful," she said.
The attacks on opponents, their competency and ability is fair game, and Democrats and Republicans both do it, but it's much more pronounced this year.
Perhaps the down-ticket candidates are following the leads of the big boys.
Sherrod Brown, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee air commercials and send e-mails to news reporters attacking U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent. DeWine and the National Republican Senatorial Committee return the attacks in kind.
The gubernatorial campaigns of Democrat Ted Strickland and Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell as well as their respective state parties also do the same thing.