Accusations fly in 6th race

On the side

Mandel’s supporter: Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel’s campaign for U.S. Senate has drawn more criticism than any other political campaign in the state in a long time.

Even so, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a fellow Republican, said he is backing Mandel over incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, It doesn’t come as a surprise as those from the same party almost always back one another.

Portman said he’s supporting Mandel because the latter has “better policies” than Brown on issues such as tax relief, energy independence and trade.

That’s interesting as Mandel and his campaign have been resistant to discuss the candidate’s policies in specifics, and in some cases, they have flat-out refused to take a position on issues.

Maybe Mandel is telling Portman things he’s not yet told the rest of us.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson and Charlie Wilson, his Democratic challenger in the November general election, know each other well — at least politically.

Johnson, a Republican from Marietta, defeated Wilson of St. Clairsville, a two-term incumbent, in the 2010 race for the 6th Congressional District seat.

Both accuse the other of being rubber stamps/puppets of their respective party leadership.

Both say the other doesn’t or didn’t properly represent the district, which includes all of Columbiana County and the southern portion of Mahoning County.

Johnson is critical of Wilson’s support of the president’s health-care reform bill, commonly known as Obamacare.

Wilson criticizes Johnson for his support of a Republican proposal that changes Medicare for those under the age of 55 as we know it.

These are typical criticisms that candidates on both sides are using all over the country.

But there have been a few unusual moments in the 6th campaign, which looks to be one of the most competitive congressional races in Ohio.

The first was in late November when Wilson announced he was seeking a rematch.

“I am disappointed that Congressman Johnson supported President [Barack] Obama’s free-trade agenda this year,” Wilson said.

I guess it’s unlikely Wilson will share the stage with Obama, a fellow Democrat, if the president comes to the 6th District to campaign.

Johnson has fired back at Wilson on the subjects of trade and government regulations.

The latest attack strategy is the Johnson campaign’s effort to tie Wilson to ex-Attorney General Marc Dann, who resigned in May 2008 after an internal office report criticized how poorly the office ran under Dann.

Dann has since been found guilty of two misdemeanor ethics counts, and the Ohio Supreme Court is considering suspending his law license.

Dann paid $500 to attend a March 30 Cleveland-area fundraiser for Wilson. Dann gave the money to a Wilson campaign worker who didn’t know the ex-attorney general.

Wilson’s campaign quickly returned the check when other staffers discovered it.

It’s an amusing little story. Dann gave his first contribution to a state or federal candidate since resigning, Wilson’s campaign found out and returns it.

But the Johnson campaign won’t let it go.

Mark Weaver, Johnson’s campaign spokesman, said there’s a “connection” between Wilson and Dann, and that’s why the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is reserving more than $1 million in broadcast TV air time for Wilson.

“At least $1 million will be needed to undo the damage caused by” the “connection.”

J.R. Starrett, Wilson’s campaign manager, called the strategy “a desperate response from a campaign that is quickly falling behind.”

It does seem like a reach, but Johnson’s campaign is taking any opportunity that comes along to criticize Wilson.

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