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Three weeks after a confrontation between operatives of the Sherrod Brown and Josh Mandel campaigns, the Brown campaign proposed "ground rules" for how their "opposition staffers" could behave at each other's campaign events, but the offer got a chilly response from the Mandel campaign.
The exchange of letters, copies of which were provided to The Blade by the Brown campaign, reveals two campaigns ready to continue slugging it out until Nov. 6.
Sarah Benzing, manager of the Brown campaign, wrote to her counterpart, Mandel campaign manager Ray Yonkura, on March 21 to suggest they agree that each other's campaign staff can be present at the other's event, except for fund-raising and family events. Both would agree their staff would not interfere at the other's event, nor hinder opposing staff at their own events.
She said her motive was to allow access to the two campaigns so the public can learn more about the candidates.
Her letter brought a response a day later from Mr. Mandel's campaign manager, who started out by saying, "I have no doubt your staff will continue to attend and disrupt as many campaign events as they can, whether we sign this agreement or not."
Mr. Yonkura went on to insist on conditions that, in essence, would make Senator Brown a Republican: Mr. Brown must get the Senate to pass a balanced budget and start paying off the $11 trillion debt, allow drilling for oil in Alaska, and "reverse the unprecedented expansion into the private sector that has slowed the economy."
That response infuriated the Brown campaign, which denied disrupting any Mandel events.
"How unfortunate that you deem it a 'disruption' for the people of Ohio to see and hear what Josh Mandel is saying as he campaigns for U.S. Senate. It's also disappointing that, rather than responding to our request, you chose to rattle off a list of demands full of false and misleading claims made by Josh Mandel -- all of which have been repeatedly debunked by nonpartisan fact check organizations," Ms. Benzing replied.
At Mr. Mandel's campaign announcement March 1 in front of the Akron Press Club, a Mandel staffer tried to physically block a Brown campaign staffer who was filming Mr. Mandel's speech.
The event moderator, University of Akron political science professor David Cohen, said Wednesday that the Mandel operatives were told twice to leave the Brown campaign "trackers" -- staffers filming opposition events -- alone.
"Mandel's staffers acted unprofessionally and were clearly trying to intimidate the folks that came to record the event," said Mr. Cohen, adding that Mr. Mandel knew in advance that the Akron Press Club event was open to the public.
The Ohio Democratic Party and now the Sherrod Brown campaign have been dogging Mr. Mandel for months, accusing him of neglecting his duties as treasurer, the job he began in January, 2011, in order to raise money for a campaign against Mr. Brown.
Brown campaign spokesman Justin Barasky said the Brown campaign's emphasis has been to expose where they believe Mr. Mandel has told lies about Mr. Brown. Most recently, the Mandel campaign got a rating of "Pants On Fire false" from the fact-checking organization PolitiFact Ohio about his claim that Mr. Brown is one of the politicians most responsible for the loss of American jobs to "places like China."
In a statement provided to The Blade, Mandel communications director Travis Considine said, "The Brown campaign’s letter reflects a campaign centered on politics, rather than policy. Our team thought it was more constructive to focus on the issues that matter most to Ohioans, such as domestic energy production that will create jobs and help reduce gas prices. Josh Mandel is going to criss-cross the state over the next eight months knocking on doors and speaking to small business owners. Ohioans are going to meet him firsthand, they don’t need our opponents and special interest groups to do that for them."
A new poll by Rasmussen Reports, released on Tuesday, said that Mr. Mandel and Mr. Brown were running even at 43 percent each.
Rasmussen's telephone survey of 500 likely voters found 3 percent preferred another candidate and 11 percent were undecided.
The results had a 4.5-percent margin of error.
Contact Tom Troy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058.