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Ohio Senate: Accusations Fly About Drug Laced Fruit

EDITOR'S NOTE: During the final days before the Nov. 7 election, various guest posters will be helping Chris keep track of the action in races around the country. Rachel Weiner takes a look at the latest twists in the Ohio Senate race:

Incumbent Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine (R) looks increasingly vulnerable ahead of the Nov. 7 election, but -- as he demonstrated in a recent debate -- he won't go down without a fight. DeWine hurled accusations at his challenger, Rep. Sherrod Brown -- accusations which Brown said were a desperate attempt by DeWine to hang onto his office.

The political landscape looks dire for the incumbent. The national GOP has essentially pulled out of the contest, choosing to spend their money on races they deem more competitive. An Oct. 27 Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg poll shows Brown leading 47 percent to 39 percent.

DeWine can blame statewide scandals involving other Republican politicians like Gov. Bob Taft and Rep. Bob Ney for alienating voters. As the election draws closer, he has tried to paint Brown with the same dirt-coated brush.

In the debate exchange on Friday, the senator accused Brown of running "a scandal-ridden office" when he was Ohio Secretary of State from 1983-1991. He said that three times in the 1980s, the State Highway Patrol investigated Brown's office for illegal drug use. One employee, DeWine said, became ill after eating a "marijuana-laced banana."

It was a brownie, not a banana, reported the Columbus Dispatch. A Dispatch report further said there is "no evidence that Brown was aware" of the incident.

"You've watched a 12-year, two-term incumbent U.S. senator morph into a desperate candidate," Brown told the audience at the debate. DeWine said the old charges were relevant to the race because they indicate "a pattern of a lack of leadership."

After the debate, Brown responded more directly to DeWine's attacks. "Republican prosecutors three times came in. We invited the police and the prosecutor to investigate," he told reporters. "There were no charges filed. We fired one employee and another one quit." A spokesman for the Ohio Highway Patrol reportedly said it would take at least a week to verify the facts, because the records aren't computerized.

Besides going on the offensive in the debate, DeWine has also run an ad blasting Brown for late payment of 1992 unemployment taxes. But he was forced to change the ad, which said it took Brown 12 years to pay the debt, after state records proved Brown paid all the money he owed after four months. A similar ad run by the Republican National Committee was dropped by TV stations. Brown brought up the incident at the debate, saying sarcastically, "Mike's had a bad week."

As the bitter cracks flew, moderator Tom Beres tried to diffuse the tension with a joke of his own. "Any chance you guys are going out for a beer after this?" he asked. Neither candidate responded.

-- Rachel Weiner

By Editors  |  October 31, 2006; 4:42 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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