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In his first general election ad, Jim Renacci attacks Sherrod Brown over his 1986 divorce

October 11, 2018

In his first general election ad, Jim Renacci attacks Sherrod Brown over his 1986 divorce

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Republican Rep. Jim Renacci is finally airing TV ads in his campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. 

The attack ad will begin Friday and air in a limited run on broadcast stations in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati through Nov. 6, Election Day, according to Medium Buying, a Republican media firm in Columbus. It references Brown’s opposition to Brett Kavanuagh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, and characterizes the allegations of sexual impropriety against Kavanuagh as “unfounded claims.” 

As Renacci has done repeatedly in media interviews in recent weeks, the ad then ties the issue to allegations from Brown’s 1986 divorce, in which his then-wife, Larke Recchie accused him of scaring her and being rough with her. She has since said the divorce resulted in “a lot of hurt on both sides, but led only to angry words.”

The female narrator in the ad says: “They tried to destroy Judge Kavanaugh with unfounded claims and Sherrod Brown was one of the loudest voices. He would know.”

Asked to comment for this story, Brown’s campaign released a video featuring Recchie in response to Renacci’s attacks. It’s currently only published on Brown’s campaign YouTube account.

“Divorce can be difficult and ours was no different. But the political attacks against our family are just wrong,” Recchie says. ”...I understand politics can sometimes be nasty, but Jim Renacci should be ashamed.”

As he has when the issue has come up in the past, Brown has denied being violent with Recchie, who now is a campaign supporter who previously has denounced Renacci and his allies’ attempts to politicize the issue. She hosted a fundraiser for Brown last month along with her current husband, and previously has recorded campaign commercials, which were never released. But none of Brown’s opponents have aired ads referencing the divorce since 1992, the year Brown was first elected to Congress.

When asked about the issue recently, Brown said: “It didn’t happen, number one. Number two, it’s been written about a number of times... My former wife has asked Jim Renacci to stop these attacks. He should stop.”

Renacci’s buy will be supplemented by ads produced by “MeToo Ohio,” a PAC that Renacci’s allies formed last month exclusively for the purpose of calling attention to Brown’s divorce. Like Renacci’s ad, the MeToo Ohio ad will begin airing tomorrow, and ties Brown’s opposition to Kavanuagh to the allegations from his divorce. The group is barred by federal elections law from coordinating with Renacci’s campaign.

The Renacci campaign has reserved $489,000 for its ad to air on broadcast stations in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati over the next four weeks, according to Medium Buying, which is a small buy. For comparison, the Brown campaign is spending roughly $1 million on TV ads each week. The MeTooOhio buy will cost $200,000 and air on Cleveland broadcast TV over the next week, which means it will air fairly frequently here.

But the ad buy is notable in that it is Renacci’s first political advertising since he won the Republican primary in May. His unwillingness or inability to buy campaign ads has led Ohio Republicans to become discouraged and privately, even angry with his campaign. 

Renacci meanwhile privately has complained that his campaign has not received the support from the outside political groups that have spent tens of millions of dollars to help Republican Senate candidates in the past. Those groups, which include PACs controlled by allies of Republican Senate President Mitch McConnell, have ignored Ohio to focus on other races they view as more competitive.

Brown, meanwhile, has among the most campaign money of any Senate candidate in the country, and has been airing ads continuously for weeks. Public polls generally have given Brown at least a 10-point lead over Renacci.

Brown and Renacci will meet in Cleveland on Sunday for the first of three debates planned over the next couple of weeks.

Here’s Renacci’s campaign ad:

Here’s Brown’s campaign response, featuring Recchie:

And here’s the MeTooOhio ad:

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