By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
The campaign for the State House District 3 seat has already taken a nasty turn.
Residents have received calls by a Texas-based research firm that started as a straight-forward election survey until it started discussing the race between Democrat Kelly Wicks and Republican Theresa Charters Gavarone. Then, said Rick Busselle, a local resident who received a call, the questions turned negative.
Busselle, who sometimes teaches surveying, said he only continuing listening out of professional interest.
The caller asked a series of questions and inquired if this made the respondent more or less likely to support one of the two candidates. Starting with Wicks, the caller cited the candidate’s support for a higher federal minimum wage, adding the contention that it would cost jobs and kill the economy, a highly debatable conclusion. Noting Wicks’ support for Planned Parenthood, the caller referenced a discredited story that the women’s health service sold body parts from aborted fetuses.
When it asked about Gavarone’s positions, the spin was all positive.
Wicks said he heard about the calls from people reporting they’d been called “and disgusted by the Trump-style tactics coming from our new state representative.”
Wicks, who owns Grounds for Thought coffee shop with his wife, Laura, said he wasn’t surprised by the turn, though that it came so early was a little surprising.
“In two previous campaigns have been subject to lies innuendo about myself, my family, the shop,” he said. Wicks has previously run for the State House and last year for Bowling Green mayor.
The calls are “trotting out” more of the same, he said.
Wicks said that this time he decided “to stand up” and go public with his complaints. He’s been working too hard for the community to let it pass. “This is one of the reasons people are disgusted with politics, and why it’s so hard to get good people to run for office.”
While not wanting to justify the misinformation in the calls, Wicks asserted that he does support mass transportation because it was good for people, communities and business.
As to Planned Parenthood, he said: “Planned Parenthood provides vital work in this community. It’s unconscionable when Ohio has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country for Republicans to work to shut down health clinics that people need to solve this problem.”
For her part, Theresa Charters Gavarone said she had no knowledge of the push polling, and only learned of it Wednesday at noontime when a reporter called her.
“I don’t know anything about it,” she said. Gavarone said she was unaware of what issues were raised in the calls and didn’t know who was behind it.
Asked what she would do to get it stopped, she said: “I don’t know where to begin.”
Gavarone said she had been the victim of dirty tactics as well. Someone had set up a fake Twitter account using her photo with fake quotations. She was able to get it removed.
“I want to run a clean campaign,” Gavarone said.
Wicks insists that the local GOP had a hand in the survey calls, though they may deny it.
Mike Marsh, the Republican County chairman, said the local party had no role in the calls.
Both Wicks and Gavarone are “decent people” who have different positions on issues. That’s how they should be judged.
“It’s outrageous, and I don’t blame him for being mad,” Marsh said.
“I’ve learned with these state and national groups have their own motives and own MOs and unfortunately too much money. I assume they were trying to help her.”
Marsh said these groups believe that to win they need to throw more money and more negativity into the race.
Wayne Park, a spokesman for Pro Mark Research, said because of confidentiality agreements, he could not say who sponsored the poll. He did offer to check to see if there was more information he could divulge. He called two hours later to say he could not reveal who was paying for the survey.
Mike Zickar, the Democratic County chairman, said: “A poll of any kind isn’t cheap. Somebody with a lot of money wants to influence this race, whether it’s local or the House Republicans.”
He suspects the purpose of the calls was to test out possible smears to use against Wicks.
He added: “This shows the Republicans are scared of Kelly Wicks’ campaign.”