The Democratic candidate facing Congressman Mike Turner in an increasingly heated race told a local group that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base would survive future base closings because it’s “an enduring base, it’s never going to close, unless someone blows it up,” according to a 12-second video the Turner campaign released Monday to reporters.
In a press conference alongside Sheriffs Phil Plummer of Montgomery County and Gene Fischer of Greene County, Turner, R-Dayton, said that Theresa Gasper’s comment “shows that my opponent is not qualified to be a candidate for Congress and certainly to serve in Congress.” He called on her to retract the statement and apologize.
Gasper told the Dayton Daily News she recognized “the unfortunate choice of words in my response to a question” about the base.
“I took issue with the tenor of the forum at that moment, in what I saw to be other participants stoking fear about the possibility of large job losses from the base, at a venue where neither Congressman Turner nor his staffer even bothered to show up,” Gasper said in a statement. “We don’t need politicians fear-mongering instead of coming up with solutions, especially after we’ve seen so many businesses leave during Congressman Turner’s tenure. Our region needs to be strong for Wright-Patt to attract the talent it needs and speculation in lieu of action just isn’t the answer.”
A spokeswoman for Wright-Patterson said the base does not comment on political activities.
Gasper’s remarks were made at the Greater Dayton Real Estate Investors Association’s “Meet The Candidates” event Wednesday night in Fairborn. Turner was invited, but did not attend or send a surrogate despite multiple invitations, the association’s treasurer said. A Turner spokesman said he was giving an address Wednesday night concerning national security at “the prestigious Union League in New York.” The league is an exclusive, invitation-only social club in Manhattan.
The 12-second clip begins with Gasper saying she appreciated being at the event, followed by, “I want to comment one more thing on Wright-Patt. It is an enduring base, it’s never going to close, unless someone blows it up.” The video abruptly ends, leaving unclear any reaction to the remark without gleaning any additional context for Gasper’s comments.
At the press conference, Turner said one of his staff members sent him the clip, but said, “I don’t know where they got it,” leaving unclear who took the video. A campaign spokeswoman later acknowledged a campaign staff member “caught it on video.”
In a phone call with the Dayton Daily News, Marsha Grosmann, the investor association’s treasurer, at first said she did not remember Gasper’s comment, but when the remarks were read back to her by a reporter she corroborated the account.
“The base has been an integral part of our community here, a lot of members are either current or former Air Force members or employees out at the base, and it was just a comment of hers that we were absolutely shocked that she would think that,” Grosmann said. “That’s why there was just absolute silence.”
“I don’t think it’s something she should apologize for, but I think it’s something she should have thought of before she said it, unless that’s what she thinks, in which case it was an honest opinion,” Grosmann said.
Wright-Patterson is one of the largest domestic military bases and is the largest single-site employer in Ohio. Last month, it was the site of an active shooter scare. The incident remains under investigation.