When I reported last week that a Cleveland-area Democratic challenger was attacking the military service of his opponent, Iraq War veteran Josh
Mandel, the consensus was that it was a losing strategy. Perhaps so. But Bob Belovich has doubled down on that pitch, sending out a mailer with the cover asking the following question: “Isn’t it time for a state representative who shows up for work?!”
The Marines called Mandel last year to return voluntarily for a second tour in Iraq. He
answered the call. Mandel had been elected to the Ohio legislature in 2006, and because of his service, he missed part of the legislative session. According to news reports, Mandel did not exactly abandon his district, as he had staffers in the office the entire time, tending to constituents’ requests and concerns.
Though a substantial portion of its base is fervently against the Iraq War, the Democratic Party has gone to great lengths to express admiration for the troops. At a time when Democrats have been exhaustively courting moderates and independents, one of its candidates slinging mud at a veterans’ service strikes a clearly discordant note.
Inside the Belovich mailer, the Democrat shows himself to be outside his party’s mainstream on another front, which happens to be his opponent’s signature issue. Mandel was one of the two legislators who led the successful fight to force the Ohio pension funds to divest from foreign companies doing business in the energy sectors of Iran and Sudan. This pits Belovich against his party’s standard-bearer. Mandel’s legislation was similar to that introduced at a federal level last year by Barack Obama, which would have offered explicit legal authority for state and local governments seeking to dump their investments in companies doing energy-related business with Iran.
That Belovich feels compelled to go so negative speaks to the surprising strength that the Republican Mandel has in this heavily Democratic seat. Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two-to-one in the district. Belovich must feel that he doesn’t enjoy the support he should have on paper, so he’s throwing the hardest punch he can at Mandel.
Should Mandel win his tough re-election fight in what will likely be a down year for the GOP, expect that many Republicans will try to learn how to replicate his success.
Should Belovich prevail primarily because of attacks on Mandel’s military service, however, it would be an ominous sign for other veterans seeking elected office.
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