Ohio Treasurer's Race: Religious & Racial Bias
Religious, racial bias alleged
Saturday, July 3, 2010 02:51 AM
BY ALAN JOHNSON
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Race and religion are creeping into an increasingly contentious treasurer’s race between Democrat state Treasurer Kevin L. Boyce and his Republican challenger, state Rep. Josh Mandel. [I would suggest reading a book called "American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century" by Kevin Phillips.]
The latest charges came from Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern, who called Mandel “a chameleon” who has developed questionable relationships with ultra-conservative politicians, talk-show hosts, bloggers and “birthers,” some of whom have made comments with racist and anti-Islamic overtones.
“Josh is using religion to weaken his political opponent instead of talking about his beliefs,” Redfern told The Dispatch. “At his very core he wants to divide us.”
Mandel spokesman Joe Aquilino called the charges “a smokescreen.”
“This is the third or fourth time in a row our opponent has gone after us simply by association,” he said. “They can’t go after our qualifications, integrity or policy.”
Mandel, 32, a second-term legislator from Lyndhurst, is white and Jewish. Boyce, 38, a former Columbus city councilman, is African-American and Christian. Amer Ahmad, his right-hand man in the treasurer’s office, is Muslim. (Boyce’s campaign deferred to Redfern to comment.)
The issue came to a head recently when Mandel’s campaign accused Boyce of “cronyism and corruption” because he awarded a $32 million, low-bid state investment contract to a Boston firm whose new lobbyist, Noure Alo, is friends with Ahmad, Boyce’s deputy treasurer and chief financial officer. Boyce also hired Alo’s wife, Walaa Waeda, as a receptionist.
Mandel then upped the ante, using the resulting news stories as a fundraising tool on his campaign website. In a short note to supporters on his blog, Mandel used the word mosque three times in talking about Boyce’s office.
“We deserve public officials who use tax dollars to hire people because they are qualified — not because they belong to their comrade’s Mosque¸” Mandel wrote.
The story, and Mandel’s comments, touched off considerable reaction, including on a blog called the Jawa Report, operated by Rusty Humphries, a conservative radio talk-show host who has featured Mandel as a guest several times.
The blog accused Ahmad of awarding contracts to “Islamic extremist friends,” adding, “Ohio state jobs openings only announced at a terror-tied mosque? Not quite sure how that is legal.”
After reading Mandel’s blog posting to supporters, Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Islamic-American Relations, said that at the very least it included “some type of religious bias.”
“I view this as an offhand reference ... a cheap way to exploit the growing anti-Muslim sentiment in our society.”
Democrats also point out that Mandel recently went to a conservative gathering in Beverly Hills, Calif., which was also attended by and touted on the website of Orly Taitz, a former Republican candidate for secretary of state in California. Taitz is also a “birther” — having waged a two-year legal battle challenging whether Barack Obama qualifies as a natural-born U.S. citizen and is therefore eligible to be president.
“Josh is in no way affiliated or involved with the birther movement,” Aquilino said. “That has never been a part of this campaign. He doesn’t know Orly Taitz and has never met her. She wasn’t a speaker at the event; she was just there.”
Aquilino denied that race and religion are part of Mandel’s campaign strategy.
“Never mind Ahmad’s religion. It doesn’t matter,” he said. “The shady deals with taxpayer dollars are what matters.”
Aquilino said Mandel would have criticized the relationship between a top-ranking official in Boyce’s office and a lobbyist “whether they attended the same church, synagogue or whatever.”
“The issue is the corruption in the office. They are using this as a smokescreen to cover their possible absolute failure and refusal to answer questions about operations of the office.”