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Tea Party challengers upset by Ohio GOP campaign

Jones, Kohls battle for Warren County seat.

The Ohio Republican Party is being accused of divisive, dirty campaigning by neoconservative Republicans, including Kelly Kohls, the former Springboro school board member running against Shannon Jones for the Ohio Senate.

The latest ad, keying on Kohls’ 2010 bankruptcy, is part of a statewide campaign against Republicans opposing Ohio GOP favorites, according to Tom Zawistowski of the Ohio Citizens PAC.

The PAC is backing candidates, including Kohls, in more than 20 primary races for state representative or senate seats and more than 20 seats on the party’s central committee.

“This is not an isolated incident. It is the standard operating procedure of the Ohio Republican Party, and that’s not a good thing,” Zawistowski said.

The anti-Kohls’ flier, the latest in a series backing Jones funded by the state GOP organization, keys in Kohls’ 2010 bankruptcy. “If she can’t manage her own money, why would we trust her with ours?”

On Thursday, party officials defended the anti-Kohls flier and accused her of using the bankruptcy to finance a family trip to Mexico.

“While Senator Jones has been fixing the fiscal mess left behind by Ohio Democrats, her opponent was spending thousands of dollars more than she had and right before declaring bankruptcy took her family on a trip to Mexico,” Chris Schrimpf, communications director for the state GOP, said in an email.

Jones did not approve the flier, Schrimpf said. Jones could not be reached.

Kohls, former chairman of the Warren County Tea Party, said there was no connection between the Mexico trip and the bankruptcy and declined to comment further on the claim.

The bankruptcy was an example of economic problems suffered by many Ohioans, Kohls said. In her case, Kohls said the family filed for bankruptcy when they were unable to refinance a construction loan when financing was difficult to secure during the national housing crisis.

“I think it’s a sad state of affairs when the Ohio Republican Party attacks a Republican because her family has not been immune to this crisis,” she said.

Political experts said the Kohls ad was evidence of a tough fight between Ohio Republicans.

“It’s open warfare inside the Republican Party. This race, together with (U.S. Rep. John) Boehner’s race, … is Ohio’s barometer in measuring the continued viability of Tea Party candidates,” Paul Leonard, an adjunct professor of political science at Wright State University and Sinclair Community College and former Dayton mayor and Ohio lawmaker, said in an email.

“This level of activity is unusual for primary races, but does happen when an incumbent is challenged. The party may be taking no chances in a low-turnout election,” said John C. Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, via email.

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