Congressional candidates Rich Iott and incumbent Marcy Kaptur battled Friday over the accuracy of Miss Kaptur's hard-hitting new campaign ad accusing Mr. Iott of destroying a locally owned grocery and drug store chain and putting more than 5,000 people out of work.
The Iott campaign called the charge "a blatant lie" and vowed to file a complaint against the Kaptur campaign with the Ohio Elections Commission.
Miss Kaptur, a Democrat who is seeking a 15th-straight term as the 9th District congressman, Friday stood behind her first television commercial as accurate, promising to provide support for the claim later.
"Rich Iott destroyed thousands and thousands of good family jobs in this community," Miss Kaptur said. "There are filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that document what happened. The facts will be out there."
Miss Kaptur said she's been inundated by former Food Town employees eager to tell her of their anger at the closing of Food Town grocery and Pharm drug stores in 2003. "They were part of that company too. Their hard work helped that company grow," Miss Kaptur said.
The commercial, Miss Kaptur's first of the campaign, says, "Rich Iott took over Food Town from his father and ran it straight into the ground, selling it off for millions, closing our neighborhood stores, and costing 5,000 people their jobs, their health care, their retirement."
The female narrator goes on to say that, "now Iott's using that money to lie about Marcy Kaptur and call himself a job creator. But we know the truth. Rich Iott doesn't create jobs, he sells them off." It ends with Miss Kaptur's voice saying she approved the ad.
The Iott campaign contends the ad is wrong because Mr. Iott, as the company's president and chief executive officer, helped arrange the merger of Food Town of Maumee with the larger Spartan Foods of Michigan into a new company, Spartan Stores, Inc., to compete with megarival Wal-Mart.
Mr. Iott, a Republican, said the business failed because Spartan management didn't know how to run a grocery chain and wouldn't follow his advice.
"He saw the future that was coming, and his dad, who was the majority stakeholder, supported the merger, as did a lot of other people. Her saying he ran it into the ground was blatantly false," Iott spokesman Matthew Parker said.
Mr. Iott's father, the late Wallace "Wally" Iott, was chairman at the time of the Spartan acquisition.
The Kaptur campaign Friday published a new Web site, www.iottsoldoffmyjob.com, inviting ex-Food Town workers to write in with their stories.
However, the site was off to a wobbly start with dates that were way off the mark. The opening page said, "In 2002, Rich Iott took over as CEO of Food Town. By 2005, the company no longer existed …"
Mr. Iott became the company president in 1989 and chief executive officer in 1996. Spartan Stores closed the 47 Food Town and 26 Pharm drug stores in 2003.
Friday night, the Kaptur campaign changed the date on the Web site that Mr. Iott became CEO.
Meanwhile, Libertarian candidate Joe Jaffe said he withdrew from the race Thursday to help Mr. Iott win because of his ideological agreement with Mr. Iott on the need for a smaller federal government and lower taxes.
"I feel, and a lot of people feel, he has a chance of winning, so I'm stepping aside to see if he can get the job done," Mr. Jaffe said.
Mr. Iott said he believes Mr. Jaffe's departure from the race will help him. He said he and other conservative candidates agreed before the May 4 primary that the candidate least likely to succeed in the general election would drop out so as not to split the conservative vote.
"Joe, being an honorable guy, stuck to his word," Mr. Iott said, although he said he had not spoken to Mr. Jaffe about his withdrawal.
In the 2008 Ohio congressional elections, Libertarians ran in four of Ohio's 18 congressional races, claiming no more than 4.6 percent of the overall vote.
Miss Kaptur said she would not concede Mr. Jaffe's supporters to Mr. Iott.
"I'm sorry Mr. Jaffe dropped out of the race. He seemed like a fine young man and I hope he continues with his public interests. He has much to offer. Mr. Jaffe and I actually shared some concerns and mutual interests, so I don't really see it as tilting any vote one way or another," Miss Kaptur said.
In a speech to a candidate forum sponsored by the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce yesterday morning, Mr. Iott cited health-care reform, financial reform, and the cap-and-trade environmental bill as examples of Congress overregulating and overtaxing.
He said he would work to repeal the health-care bill, acknowledging that even if the GOP gains a majority in both chambers, President Obama could prevent a repeal with his veto power.
"The House controls the purse strings, and if we can't repeal or repair things, we just won't fund it and we'll wait two years until we put a Republican in the White House and then we'll fix it," Mr. Iott said.
He called Miss Kaptur a "career politician," and said he would commit to serve no more than three terms.
"Overregulation and uncertainty are killing our economy. You know it and I know it and the only people who don't seem to know it are the congressmen and women who are causing all the problems," Mr. Iott said.
Carol Van Sickle, vice president of public affairs for the chamber, said Miss Kaptur has been invited to speak in the Good Government Pre-Election Speaker Series, but a date had not yet been agreed upon.
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