HOWLAND — Vincent Peterson II, the Democratic candidate in the 64th Ohio House District race, says Ohio Republican Party campaign literature mailed to voters that calls him “radical, hateful, divisive” is false and an effort to smear his good name.
“A lot of it is fear tactics (Republicans) are using across the state,” he said. “They use buzzwords and fear tactics.”
Peterson is facing Republican Nick Santucci in the state House race.
Peterson of Howland, said the Republican campaign mail isn’t “what people are looking for. I’m trying to be positive and focus on us and our campaign. I’ve had my opportunities to take shots, but I’ve chosen not to take those shots. I wouldn’t support my party taking shots at my opponent.”
Peterson wouldn’t say whether Santucci should condemn the flyers.
The mailers drew criticism from Mark Alberini, Trumbull County Democratic Party chairman, who said during a Tuesday news conference that the ORP flyers are “obviously sanctioned by Santucci.” Alberini described them as “divisive,” “false” and “include race baiting. We call on Santucci to stop with these outrageous lies.”
Santucci wouldn’t comment when specifically asked if he had any input into the ORP mailers critical of Peterson, but said: “I’m not sending out any negative mailers. My campaign is focused on the issues that actually matter to working people in our district like crime, inflation and bringing new jobs to our community.”
Santucci added: “This is a silly attempt by the local Democratic Party to distract from the fact that their agenda is failing working people and they’re losing this race. I’ve been getting attacked by Democrats in Columbus, too, but I’m not wasting time and calling press conferences as last-minute acts of desperation.”
The flyers attack Peterson for supposedly “pushing soft-on-crime policies” even though he is a former state parole officer and he — and not Santucci — received the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio.
The district includes all of Warren, Girard, Liberty, Niles, Hubbard, Vienna, Howland, McDonald and Weathersfield as well as a part of Warren Township.
Some of the criticism in the Republican mailers is likely related to a speech Peterson gave in 2020 shortly after George Floyd, a blackman, was killed by a white Minneapolis, Minn., police officer.
During that speech to a largely black audience, Peterson said inner-city crime and poverty lead to more police presence there and “more police tend to think that people like me and you think we’re criminals and because of that they think they can treat us as they want.”
He also said during that speech it was time to acknowledge the terrible impacts of slavery, segregation and lynchings on the country.
“They taught us that everything going on now is what’s going to create a race war,” Peterson said during the 2020 speech. “But guess what: we’ve been in a race war for 400 years.”
Peterson works as a constituent and community affairs liaison for U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland. Before that, he worked as a state parole officer.
The Republican campaign literature states Peterson has a “disregard for our safety” and is “a radical extremist who will put us all in danger. When cities burn and looting is rampant, we can’t afford to have Peterson in office.”
It states Peterson is “no friend of police” and with working families “being crushed by rampant inflation and struggling to afford gas and groceries,” they “can’t afford more painful price increases at the hands of Democrats like Peterson.”
It also tied him to Joe Biden, calling the Democratic president “Peterson’s pal,” and that “Democrats like Peterson have no problem with Biden hiring 82,000 IRS agents to harass law-abiding Americans.”
“Inflation has nothing to do with me or the IRS,” Peterson said. “Those are federal issues.”
Peterson said he had the 2020 speech on his Instagram page until about a year when he was told by a number of people to take it down because political opponents could use it against him.
Save Ohio PAC has posted excerpts of the speech on its YouTube page and Twitter feed. Save Ohio PAC also has a website, but that only links to its Twitter feed and Facebook page.
The Twitter feed, which has close to 5,000 followers, has three posts, which all link to Peterson’s edited 2020 speech. The Facebook page, which has more than 12,000 followers, has only two posts: a profile picture and a cover photo. Its YouTube channel has one video: that same edited portion of Peterson’s 2020 speech, which has been viewed almost 7,000 times.
Save Ohio PAC hasn’t filed documents with the Ohio Secretary of State or the Federal Election Commission.
Peterson said: “They took a 13-minute speech and spliced it” into less than two minutes to make me look bad.
Peterson added: “The one line I wish I was clearer on was the police line,” which he said “more police tend to think” African-Americans can be criminals and “think they can treat us as they want.”
Peterson said Tuesday he meant that “there are a few bad apples” in law enforcement and “it was not meant to insinuate that all officers are bad.” He added that his father and other family members are in law enforcement and he’s proud of all of them.
Peterson added that the comment didn’t stop him from getting the FOP endorsement.
“When I talked to the FOP, we had a great conversation,” he said. “They asked me about the same line and they know what I represent and they endorsed me.”
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