Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Monday, March 20

Cong. OH-18: Ney (R) Spurns Debate with Harris (R)

As reported in the Athens News here and the Cleveland Plain Dealer "blog" Openers here, the campaign staff for incumbent Rep. Bob Ney (R-Heath) has flatly refused an invitation to debate lesser known challenger James B. Harris (R-Zanesville). At first, Ney's spokesman Brian Walsh asserted that Ney was unable to debate Harris due to scheduling conflicts. Confronted with a statement by the League of Women Voters of Athens County that Ney had been offered as many as six alternative dates for the debate, Walsh at first disputed this account to both the Athens News and the Plain Dealer, but later conceded the truth of this account to the Plain Dealer and stated instead that Ney won't debate Harris "no matter how many dates the League proposes" because Ney "doesn't have time" and "Harris isn't a credible candidate because he hasn't registered with the Federal Election Commission, meaning he hasn't raised $5,000 yet." Walsh also said, "I think the whole thing is a little silly."

Harris isn't taking the incumbent's cavalier dismissal of his candidacy without a fuss, according to the Plain Dealer account:

"'I’m a farmer’s son,' he said. 'I’m frugal with my campaign dollars and, if elected, I’ll be frugal with our taxpayer dollars. I’m in this race, I’m serious and I’m going to take my shot.' If Ney agrees to a debate, the 36-year-old financial analyst said he's even willing to forgo any mention of the criminal investigation swirling around Ney's association with indicted political fixer Jack Abramoff. Until then, he said, he'll promote himself as a true Republican -- a member of the party of Lincoln -- pointing out that Ney and his high-rolling 'porkbrokers' belong 'to the party of Lincolns.'"
And, as quoted in the Athens News, Harris said:

"I argue that Ney is afraid of debating me and my Reagan Republican economic policies, but it's also possible that his handlers or lawyers don't want him debating any candidate or talking to any reporters while he's under federal investigation for felonies involving Jack Abramoff or bribery."

Personally, I find Ney's dismissal of Harris' candidacy rather bizarre, or at least very ironic. I should think that an incumbent who faces possible indictment involving bribery would take any primary challenger seriously, whether well-funded or not. And, Ney is awash with campaign contributions from PACs, corporations, and special interests outside Ohio ... isn't it a little weird for him to dismiss Harris for not raising enough cash? Is there really anything about Harris pursuing his campaign by e-mailing press releases from his Zanesville apartment that disqualifies him as a candidate? If I'm not mistaken, the first President of the United States limited his campaign activities to issuing statements from his garden at Mount Vernon. For a more contemporary example, there's the Democratic candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, Judge William O'Neill, who famously accepts no campaign contributions at all. Does O'Neill's primary opponent, Judge A.J. Wagner, refuse to debate him on that basis? I don't think so ... in fact, I attended a candidate forum featuring those two candidates speaking head-to-head in Cleveland just two days ago.

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