Montgomery County Democrats apologize for attack ads

Credit: Ty Greenlees

Credit: Ty Greenlees

UPDATE: Montgomery County Democratic Party Executive Director Kurt Hatcher resigned Friday in the wake of the controversy over the mailers.

The Montgomery County Democratic Party issued an apology to two Dayton city commission candidates for attack advertisements sent by mail to city voters.

The party’s central committee on Thursday voted to apologize to Dayton City Commissioner Rev. Darryl Fairchild and candidate Shenise Turner-Sloss, said Mark Owens, party chairman.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairwoman Elizabeth Walters has already apologized to the candidates.

Stacey Benson-Taylor and Scott Sliver are the other two candidates running in the Nov. 2 election. Benson-Taylor said she and Sliver’s campaigns were responsible for the mailings.

“Our teams all worked on the mailings. They sent them out. We worked on them as a team, and the goal was to really identify the differences in the political or policy approaches to safety,” Benson-Taylor said. “Nothing in the information was untrue.”

Sliver could not be reached for comment.

The commission race is officially nonpartisan but all four candidates running for two seats are Democrats, and the local party endorsed Benson-Taylor and Sliver.

One mailer says Fairchild and Turner-Sloss “opposed measures to keep us safe from violent crime,” and the other says Turner-Sloss can’t be trusted because she was endorsed by the Dayton/Miami Valley Democratic Socialists of America.

“This is racist, it is dog whistles, it is red-baiting,” Turner-Sloss said.

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

She said she appreciates the party apologies but, “the damage is done. I think with the damage that was done, not only to my candidacy, but to the party itself and the voters, it is irreparable.”

Fairchild said he is sad that members of the party are attacking their own, and that the mailers distract from the the real issues facing the city.

“I hope the citizens of Dayton see through this as an attempt to tear people down,” Fairchild said. “The citizens of Dayton want leaders who build people up and work for constructive solutions.”

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

He and Turner-Sloss said they support public safety efforts. They are also campaigning to clear neighborhood blight, and to improve youth opportunities and the city’s ability to respond to emergencies, according to their campaign literature.

Republicans have branded Democrats as socialists and attacked them as soft on crime. Owens said it did make him uncomfortable to see Democrats using those themes against fellow Democrats, but he said the ads were accurate because Turner-Sloss did get the local DSA endorsement and both candidates opposed the city contracting for the controversial SpotShotter gunshot detection program approved by city commission.

Fairchild and Turner-Sloss said the program is unproven and that money could be better spent on other programs to improve safety in neighborhoods.

“To say that we don’t care about neighborhoods is just not true,” Fairchild said.

Owens took responsibility for the county party forwarding the mailers to the Ohio Democratic Party to be sent out via the party’s bulk rate mailing system.

That violated state party rules because “there are strict policies in place that mail pieces can’t attack other Democrats,” said Matt Keyes, spokesman for the state party.

“The mail pieces should never have been submitted by the local county party, nor approved, but they unfortunately went out by mistake amid a staff transition at ODP in oversight of the mail program,” Keyes said.

He said oversight of the program will be strengthened, and the county party was asked to outline what steps will be taken to ensure it does not happen again. Future violations could result in the county party losing access to the state party’s bulk mail rate, Keyes said.

In retrospect, Benson-Taylor said the mailings were a mistake, but she said it is legitimate for campaigns to point out differences between candidates.

“We understand that it caused controversy,” she said. “It was a mistake that that information went out in that format.”

Follow @LynnHulseyDDN on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Author