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Brown campaign cancels news conference after group announces protest

  • CTY-Brown04p-2

    From left Diane Stein, Kathy Mockensturm, and Nancy Roffey of Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie hold up a sign Wednesday at Middlegrounds Metropark in Toledo.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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  • CTY-Brown04p-3

    From left David Hartman, Linda Hartman, Bev Bingle, and Sam Wright of Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie hold up signs Wednesday at Middlegrounds Metropark in Toledo.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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The re-election campaign for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown canceled a news conference meant to highlight his environmental record just hours after a group invited to support the senator said it would picket instead of endorse Mr. Brown.

The event was scheduled for Wednesday at Middlegrounds Metropark with Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and environmental groups expected to be in attendance, as well as representatives from Mr. Brown’s campaign. The senator was in Washington, D.C. 

CTY-Brown04p-2

From left Diane Stein, Kathy Mockensturm, and Nancy Roffey of Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie hold up a sign Wednesday at Middlegrounds Metropark in Toledo.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Middlegrounds is on the banks of the Maumee River, which last year saw the kind of toxic algal bloom that has plagued Lake Erie.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz, northwest Ohio leaders, and environmental advocates “will make the case for why Sherrod is the only Senate candidate Ohioans can trust to fight for clean water and a safe environment,” the Brown campaign said in a news release.

Among those invited was Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie. The group had been expected to support the Democratic senator, who is running against Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth.

“Please feel free to attend as well as to bring along anyone from your organization who may be supportive of Senator Brown’s position,” wrote Gretchen DeBacker, Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s legislative director and campaign manager, in an email to supporters.

Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie coordinator Mike Ferner responded on Tuesday with concerns about Mr. Brown’s record on the lake.

“I’m not sure what part of Sherrod’s record indicates why he ‘is the only Senate candidate Ohioans can trust to fight for clean water and a safe environment.’ As best we can tell, he never even came out in favor of an impaired status. It’s hard to say for sure, since of the hundreds of post cards we sent to him over the last two years I haven’t talked to anyone who got a response,” Mr. Ferner wrote.

The next day, Mr. Ferner’s group issued its own news release about 9 a.m. saying it would picket before the 2 p.m. news conference. Copied were members of Mr. Brown’s campaign and his legislative staff and the mayor’s office. Two hours later the Brown campaign sent an email saying the event was canceled because of a scheduling conflict.

The mayor’s office said Thursday that, while Mr. Kapszukiewicz had a busy day, the cancellation came from Mr. Brown’s team.

The senator’s campaign indicated the issue was with Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s schedule. A review of the mayor’s schedule did not show a conflict in the afternoon.

The Brown camp responded with statements of support for the senator from the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, and Ohio Sierra Club.

Mr. Ferner said his group was never notified the event was off and members arrived Wednesday afternoon at Middlegrounds with signs.

“We really don’t know what happened other than nobody from the mayor’s office and the Brown campaign showed up,” he said.

Mr. Ferner’s group has criticized the senator for not supporting an impaired status for Lake Erie or a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleanup similar to what is being done for Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay, he said.

“When it comes to Lake Erie, Senator Brown needs to tell voters exactly what his policy is for Lake Erie because so far we haven’t seen much to celebrate,” he wrote in a news release, which also lists five questions about the lake it plans to send Mr. Brown and other candidates running for office in northwest Ohio.

“Senator Brown has supported millions of dollars in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and for more Department of Agriculture-funded buffer strips, but as laudable as those things sound, neither of them will tell us who is responsible for the pollution going into the lake or hold anyone accountable,” Mr. Ferner wrote.

Contact Liz Skalka at lskalka@theblade.com, 419-724-6199, or on Twitter @lizskalka.

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