Rep. Jim Renacci, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Ohio, thought it would be a good idea to meet with religious leaders. To get there, he hopped on a plane owned by one of his campaign volunteers… who also happens to own a strip club.
Talk about bad optics…
To be sure, what Renacci did wasn’t illegal. But when you’re a Republican in a tough race, potentially upsetting religious voters is a horrible campaign strategy.
Rep. Jim Renacci, the Republican Senate candidate, on Friday defended flying in a strip-club owner’s private plane to a meeting earlier this week with faith leaders in Scioto County.
While deflecting questions about flying with Don Ksiezyk on Ksziezyk’s plane to the Tuesday event in Portsmouth, Renacci seemed to acknowledge doing so.
“I’m going with a volunteer, and no one’s concerned about traveling with him or anything,” Renacci said. “Again, it’s so sad that we’re worried about my travel, which is legal, but you won’t report on Sherrod Brown’s multiple abuses over the years…”
Flight records show a plane registered to an address shared with the Peek-a-Boo Club in Cleveland, which is owned by Ksiezyk, flew from the Wooster area to Portsmouth around 3 p.m. on Tuesday. Later that evening, Renacci tweeted about meeting with the “faith leaders” before he attended a Scioto County Republican Party event.
Renacci was trying to tear down his opponent, Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown, by drawing attention to Brown’s divorce. But (as reporters have covered many times) his ex-wife actually works for his campaign and has disputed all Renacci’s characterizations.
This is a classic deflection, but it didn’t work, especially since the media has covered the issue and Renacci is just trying to re-write history. Instead, reporters asked more questions about the flight and got more defensive replies.
Renacci took the flight the week after the Columbus Dispatch first reported Ksiezyk had flown Renacci to events across the state throughout his campaign in the single-engine, fixed-wing plane. Renacci has reported the free travel as an in-kind contribution worth about $2,500.
“He’s a volunteer who… I met during the campaign. He asked to volunteer for me,” Renacci said. “I’m not going to vet volunteers, and I’m not going to vet the press’s looking at volunteers.”
“Volunteer” or not, politicians are often judged by the company they keep. It remains to be seen if the unnamed religious leaders he met with will become less enthusiastic about his campaign knowing how he’s getting around the state.
(Screenshot via YouTube)