By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau
COLUMBUS — It’s an odd campaign strategy.
Republican state treasurer candidate Joe Deters – locked in what the polls say is the tightest statewide race – will take a week off from campaigning to fulfill a promise.
Mr. Deters is the Hamilton County prosecutor, and next week his office will put on trial Joseph Paul Franklin, the racist serial killer who has admitted to more than a dozen murders across the country.
Franklin has confessed to the shooting that left Hustler publisher Larry Flynt paralyzed, and the 1980 shooting of presidential confidant Vernon Jordan in Fort Wayne, Ind. He has said he was trying to start a race war; he is now on death row in Missouri and has been sentenced to six life sentences in two other states.
In Cincinnati, Franklin is accused of the murders of Donte Evans Brown and Darrell Lane, two children, 9 and 10, shot dead in Cincinnati in 1980.
Mr. Deters said that, when his office indicted Franklin last year, he promised the children’s parents he would prosecute the case personally.
“He’s the incarnation of evil,” he said. “I’m going to keep my promise.”
As a result, beginning Monday, Mr. Deters will be in Cincinnati, in front of a judge, instead of around the state, in front of voters.
“I told them [his campaign staff] to clear out the schedule completely,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate from the perspective of those of us working on the campaign,” campaign spokesman Tim Clark said. “But it’s fortunate for the families of the children.”
Franklin has said he will file a motion to postpone the trial sometime this week, but Mr. Deters said he will oppose it. “The families have waited long enough,” he said.
Mr. Clark said it is unclear how long the trial might last, but he estimated it would take at least four days. “We just hope it doesn’t go into the next week,” he said.
If it did, that would mean Mr. Deters would be off the campaign trail just eight days before Election Day.
Those lost days of campaigning aren’t meaningless to Mr. Deters. While most Republicans in statewide races have pulled to double-digit leads in their races, Mr. Deters leads Democrat John Donofrio by only five points in recent polls. Neither is particularly well-known statewide, and each could use as much publicity as possible.
Tim Barnhart, Mr. Donofrio’s campaign manager, said Mr. Deters was only fulfilling his legal responsibility to the voters of Hamilton County. But he said he wasn’t sure how much of the decision was based on seeking publicity for prosecuting a high-profile murder trial.