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Published: Saturday, 10/16/2010

NRA rallies for Strickland; Kasich warned

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — At a Ted Strickland campaign rally Friday touting the Ohio governor's pro-gun record and endorsement from the National Rifle Association, a paid Strickland campaign staffer encouraged those in attendance to “make sure” Mr. Strickland's opponent “knows southern Ohio is not safe for him.”

Republican John Kasich, who is running against the Democratic governor and campaigned yesterday in Chillicothe, Portsmouth, and Jackson in southern Ohio, was followed to each stop by Strickland campaign staffers, the governor's 71-year-old brother Roger, and the Sportsmen for Strickland recreational vehicle.

Prior to Mr. Kasich's noon rally in Chillicothe, the Strickland campaign held an event a few blocks away, outside the Ross County Courthouse, where NRA lobbyist John Hohenwarter spoke on the governor's behalf.

Following Mr. Hohenwarter's speech, in which he highlighted the governor's support for gun owners' rights while in Congress, Strickland staff member Adam Ward stood in a camouflage hunting jacket before about 25 supporters, thanked them for their attendance, and encouraged them to join the Sportsmen for Strickland a few blocks away to “make sure John knows southern Ohio is not safe for him.”

Approached by The Blade for clarification, Mr. Ward declined comment and referred questions to the Strickland campaign's communications staff. Reese Kossoff, the campaign's deputy communications director who was at the event, said Mr. Ward meant that southern Ohio voters “will come out in droves for Ted Strickland.”

Later, Strickland campaign press secretary Allison Kolodziej said in an e-mail: “A son of Appalachia, Ted has always had the support of folks in southern Ohio and because of his work for this area as a congressman and governor, we expect it to be a safe stronghold for Ted once again this year.”

In response to Mr. Ward's statement, Kasich communications director Scott Milburn said: “That's a very irresponsible thing to say. There's no place at all for that kind of inflammatory rhetoric.”

Few details were immediately available on Mr. Ward, although campaign staff did confirm he previously worked within Ohio's state government structure.

Mr. Strickland is from Duck Run, Ohio, a small community in Scioto County a short drive from Portsmouth and Chillicothe. About 25 Strickland supporters set up across the street from Mr. Kasich's rally in Portsmouth, clashing in a civil but spirited shouting match with Kasich supporters for about 30 minutes.

Not only is Mr. Strickland a local son in Ohio's Appalachia, but he also is supported by the region's many gun owners because of his A+ rating and endorsement by the NRA. Mr. Kasich, who is a gun owner, received a B rating from the NRA in 2000, his last year in Congress.

“The choice is simple for us,” the NRA's Mr. Hohenwarter said. “John Kasich is uneven on our issue.”

Mr. Kasich is penalized by the gun lobby for his vote in favor of an assault weapons ban in Congress in 1994. Mr. Strickland voted against the ban.

“Let me get one thing out of the way,” Mr. Kasich said at his Chillicothe rally, held for about 100 supporters at The Madison on Paint Street. “I am a gun owner, I have a gun in my house, I support the Second Amendment, and don't let anybody tell you anything else.”

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6559.



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