Secretary of State ad is called misleading; Complaint filed with elections board

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 3

COLUMBUS — The woman who wants to be Ohio’s chief elections official is accusing her opponent of an advertising infraction.

Charleta Tavares, Democratic candidate for secretary of state, filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission yesterday against Republican Ken Blackwell.

The complaint alleges that a Blackwell radio ad being run statewide, which closes with the phrase “Ken Blackwell, secretary of state,” is an attempt to fool voters into thinking he is the incumbent in the race.

Mr. Blackwell is state treasurer.

“This is a serious matter,” Ms. Tavares, a state representative from Columbus, said. “It appears he has elected himself before the people’s vote.”

Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo said “the `for’ is implied” in the ad, and that it does not imply incumbency.

“We stand behind our ad,” Mr. LoParo said. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It is accurate.”

Ms. Tavares said it is important that the secretary of state, as the chief enforcer of Ohio’s elections laws, be above such shenanigans. “When you have a secretary of state who himself has violated state elections law, that’s a problem in the position,” she said.

The current secretary of state, Republican Bob Taft, is running for governor. Last Friday, his campaign was reprimanded by the elections commission for making two false statements in a television ad.

This is not the first time that a missing “for” has come before the elections commission this year. In August, Mr. Taft and Mr. Fisher filed complaints against one another after each ran TV ads featuring only “Bob Taft Governor” and “Lee Fisher Governor,” respectively. The commission, at a preliminary hearing, ruled that both cases had merit and scheduled them for a full hearing. But before that could happen, the two campaigns reached a private agreement to use “for governor” or similar language in all their ads, and withdrew their complaints.

In the past, the commission has found violations in cases like this one, according to commission executive director Philip Richter. But this would probably be the first time the “for” issue has come up in a radio ad, he said. The Tavares complaint could be heard before a probable cause panel of the commission on Tuesday, he said. If the panel finds there is sufficient evidence for a full hearing, that could be held late next week or on Nov. 2, the day before the election.

Ms. Tavares introduced a nonpartisan voter’s guide she said she intends to put in the hands of every registered voter if she is elected.