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Suetholz says his family was targeted in GOP ad

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By Tammy Shaw

 

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Kentucky Senate candidate Dave Suetholz (D) isn’t happy.

A recent Kentucky Republican Party mailer, a negative ad that graced the mailboxes of thousands of Kentuckians, displayed an image of Suetholz, his wife and their two 5-year-old daughters.

The image, with the family standing next to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, first appeared on the Democrat’s website and Facebook page, from which the party allegedly appropriated the photo.

“I was upset and so was my wife,” Suetholz said on Friday, Oct. 26. “It’s despicable, gutter tactics.”

The Democratic challenger knows politics is a blood sport, and said, “But I expect politicians to call me vile, everyone does it. That’s politics,” he said. “But there’s an unwritten code of honor that you don’t drag someone’s children into it.”

“My wife and children are an enormous part of who I am,” the candidate said, which is why he added the photo to his website.

Current District 20 Kentucky Senator Paul Hornback (R) said he did not approve the ad. However, he has no intention to ask the party to rescind or renounce the ad against his opponent.

Asked what he thought of the mail piece, Hornback claimed to had not seen it. However, he spoke to the party Thursday about the ad. 

 “I have no say in what other groups do,” Hornback said. “I didn’t post it, so I can’t rescind it.”

“Personally, I hope he [Hornback] didn’t approve of the ad. But somebody did,” the challenger said.

“I assumed he was proud of [the image]. I don’t do Facebook personally, but I think when people are proud of things, they should” stand by it, Hornback said.

Henry County Republican Party Chairman Jon Park said, “We stand by that ad. There’s nothing in it we disagree with. I don’t know why this is a controversy.”

The Henry County Democratic Party sent a lengthy response, which includes a statement from party Co-Chair Clark Rechtin on behalf of the organization in which he said, in part, that the campaign flyer “exposes [Suetholz’s family] to unjustified derision and even risk.”

Rechtin continued, “But I’m going to give Mr. Hornback the benefit of the doubt in one regard, at least: I’m assuming that the ad’s depiction of Dave’s family inside a circular frame resembling a target was purely an unintentional, though clumsy, accident. I certainly do not believe he would consciously stoop that low.”

The campaign literature, Park said, was to “inform voters about the politicians he [Suetholz] aligned with,” meaning Sanders, former Sen. and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Nancy Pelosi.

The campaign piece, which clearly states it is paid for by the Republican Party of Kentucky, referred to Hornback’s challenger as “pushing a radical socialist agenda....” and features a manipulated image of  Suetholz flanked by Clinton and Pelosi, telling voters, “We don’t need another Clinton-Pelosi re-run,” sentiments echoed in national campaigns.

However, “context matters,” Suetholz Campaign Consultant Matthew Arnold said. It’s one thing for a candidate to put an image of their family on their own website in a positive light, it’s different when the opposition uses the same photo in a negative campaign ad, he said.

In a re-post to the Hornback for Senate Facebook page, Suetholz commented, “My little girls didn’t ask to be a part of this campaign and they don’t have their names on the ballot.”

The post on Hornback’s page, active on Friday, was no longer on the page Saturday morning.

Suetholz contends that if Republicans wanted to use that image of him with Bernie Sanders, that would have been fine, as long as the ad cropped out his family entirely or blurred their faces, leaving Suetholz and Sanders intact. 

“I wouldn’t expect them [Republicans] to take an image of my loved ones and use it in that way,” Suetholz said. “They’re associating my family with the ugly things said in the ad.”

Thinking of the recent pipe bomb mailings to Democrats and critics of President Trump, Suetholz is worried for his girls’ safety. The family lives in Henry County. 

“We denounce any kind of violence,” Park said. “It’s unfortunate that this is going on at the same time” that the pipe bomb mailings dominated the news.  

“If the Republican Party could guarantee that everyone they sent that mailer to is sane, then that’s one thing, but they can’t,” Arnold said.

Voters will decide on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

 

 

 

 

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