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Dueling ads in Montgomery County recorder race hit low, sides say

Democrat Brandon McClain, left, the current Montgomery County recorder, is being challenged by Republican Adil Baguirov, former Dayton School Board president. SUBMITTED
Democrat Brandon McClain, left, the current Montgomery County recorder, is being challenged by Republican Adil Baguirov, former Dayton School Board president. SUBMITTED

An online campaign ad for Montgomery County Recorder Brandon McClain, a Democrat, drew immediate fire this week from his Republican opponent Adil Baguirov, who called the minute-long video a racist, xenophobic attack that maligned an area immigrant community.

Not long after local Democrats pulled that ad down and apologized, they leveled similar charges at the Republican, claiming that in a Baguirov mailer McClain is portrayed as repeatedly allowing scammers to steal property through deed fraud.

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Baguirov, a U.S. citizen who immigrated to America from the former Soviet Union, was shown pictured in the video produced by Democrats speaking at a rally denouncing Armenian aggression in Azerbaijan, where his parents remain. Type superimposed over the image read: “Adil has only been endorsed by his political party and a group called Ten Thousand Turks.”

Type over a photo of Brandon McClain on another segment of the video read: “Brandon has never been to Azerbaijan but enjoys turkey every Thanksgiving.”

Baguirov said Thursday U.S. citizens can express different political sentiments “and still swear allegiance to the same founding principles.”

“Ads like the one my opponent has run, which hundreds of people have seen before it was pulled down by his party, demonstrate that he doesn’t truly believe that,” Baguirov said. “He believes that by spreading malicious and misleading statements, and xenophobic attacks, he can scare people into supporting him. He believes that by making bigoted cracks about NATO-member and U.S.-ally Turkey and Thanksgiving dinners he can unite people.”

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The Montgomery County Democratic Party issued an apology on its Facebook page after pulling the ad Wednesday: “Earlier today we posted a video that contained a statement that was totally inappropriate and derogatory towards the entire Turkish community. This was wrong and it does not reflect the values we seek to uphold. It was a terrible attempt to try humor, and it was a great error in judgment. We sincerely apologize for this lack of sensitivity to the Turkish community.”

On Friday, local Democrats held a news conference to level complaints about a mailer distributed by the Baguirov campaign that suggests McClain’s appointment to office brought with it deed fraud.

“Property theft has arrived in Montgomery County,” states the Baguirov campaign mailer under a photo of McClain. “Scammers are in my office repeatedly stealing properties through title fraud,” the ad copy continues.

Dayton City Commissioner Jeffrey Mims Jr. defended McClain on Friday, including at a news conference where he was joined by Thomas Ritchie Sr., a local labor leader, and Tom Hagel, one of McClain’s professors at the University of Dayton law school.

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“There were allegations of fraud that were levied against Mr. McClain that were totally erroneous,” Mims said. “These were things that were basically made up. A lot of what’s happening in the later days and weeks prior to a campaign, candidates who have nothing good to say about themselves or their own record make up negative things about others.”

McClain did not return a phone call Friday seeking comment for this story.

While deed fraud has been on the uptick in the community for years, Mims said McClain, in office for seven months, has taken quick action to prevent the crime through a new fraud notification system, Mims said.

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Mims said a degree of racism was also on display in the Baguirov mailer.

“When you are an African American male and there are allegations directed at you that suggest fraud or theft in office or something along those lines, those kind of penalties or accusations weigh more heavily than they do on a member of the majority race,” he said.

Islam Shakhbandarov, the director of the Ahiska Turkish American Community Center who is also a Baguirov business partner, said Democrats, including Mark Owens, the county chairman, and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, contacted him to apologize for the video attack against Baguirov posted earlier in the week.

Mims said he would have advised McClain to not post the ad, which was perceived in a derogatory light by a large segment of the community.

“Those kinds of things take the focus off of what you have done and what you are planning to do,” he said.