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Ohio Democratic Party issues apology for ads targeting Dayton Commissioner candidates

An attack ad with a graphic of a bullet hole, and the words "We're not safe with Shenise and Darryl" in bold letters superimposed over it. This is one of two ads mailed out by the Ohio Democratic Party, targeting two Democratic candidates for Dayton City Commissioner.
The Ohio Democratic Party mailed out ads targeting Shenise Turner-Sloss and Darryl Fairchild, claiming they don't care about Dayton residents' safety. The ads were submitted by the Montgomery County Democratic Party.

The Montgomery County Democratic Party released two attack ads against Shenise Turner-Sloss and Darryl Fairchild, candidates in the Dayton City Commissioner race.

This week the Ohio Democratic Party sent out two postcards attacking candidates for Dayton City Commission.

The postcards target Shenise Turner-Sloss and Darryl Fairchild. They’re both Democrats, but aren’t officially endorsed by the party.

One of the ads is dark red, and reads in bold letters, “Don’t Trust Shenise Turner-Sloss.” It shows a Tweet from the local Democratic Socialists chapter endorsing Turner-Sloss.

An attack with a screenshot of a Tweet from the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America endorsing Shenise Turner-Sloss. In bold letters on the bottom of the ad, it says "Don't trust Shenise Turner-Sloss." These ads were submitted by the county democratic party and distributed by the state party. The state party has since apologized for this.
The Ohio State Democratic Party has since apologized for releasing these attack ads against a registered Democrat. In a statement, the party said the Montgomery County Democratic Party never should have submitted the ads in the first place.

The other ad features a graphic with a bullet hole, and says Turner-Sloss and Fairchild oppose measures to keep Dayton residents safe from violent crime.

At the bottom of the ad is a link to a Dayton Daily News article. The article describes Commissioner Fairchild’s vote against renewing the city’s contract with California tech company ShotSpotter.

Shotspotter is a gun-shot detection technology that immediately alerts Dayton police to the location of a shot. These microphones are exclusively placed in West Dayton, a predominantly Black community.

Fairchild said the grant money used to fund the technology should have gone towards neighborhood development. Many Black community activists and leaders agree, and have spoken out against Shotspotter. They say the technology is ineffective at reducing gun crime and leads to over-policing of Black neighborhoods.

The Ohio Democratic Party said in a statement on Thursday that these ads violated several of their mailer policies.

“ODP Chair Elizabeth Walters has spoken with both candidates listed on the mail pieces in violation and offered her apologies for ODP’s role in the mistake,” Spokesperson Matt Keyes said in the release.

The party says the ads were sent out by mistake and should never have been submitted by the county party in the first place.

Mark Owens, however, disagrees. He is the chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, and says he doesn’t see anything wrong with the postcards.

“Sometimes ads can be tough,” Owens said. “These are the consultants trying to get people's attention. I mean, people can make their decisions on whether these things, mailers, or ads, whatever, on their own, that they can make their own decisions.”

Owens said they contracted with an individual from Columbus to design the ads. While he didn’t see the red ad, Owens says the ShotSpotter ad was completely factual, despite localand national reports calling its efficacy into question.

“The police say ShotSpotter improves the safety of our neighborhoods, and the other two do not want to give police departments the ability to improve the safety of the neighborhood,” Owens said. “There’s some opposition to [ShotSpotter]... I know that the NRA pushes out those findings.”

Several state politicians have spoken out in support of Fairchild and Turner-Sloss, including state Senator Nina Turner.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Ohio Young Black Democrats called the ads “racist dog whistles,” and said they “unfairly crush progressive, diverse candidates.”

“This dirty tactic further exposes deep-rooted racism in our party and speaks to the lengths Democrats will go to attack each other versus actually delivering on issues affecting working communities,” they said.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 2. For more information on where and how to vote, click here or visit your county’s board of elections website.

Mawa Iqbal is a reporter for WYSO. Before coming to WYSO, she interned at Kansas City PBS's digital magazine, Flatland. There, her reporting focused on higher education and immigrant communities in the Kansas City area. She studied radio journalism at Mizzou, where she also worked for their local NPR-affiliate station as a reporter.