Ney Claims Innocence in Reelection Bid

Ohio Congressman Bob Ney rallied supporters in Chillicothe today – one day after kicking off a re-election bid for Ohio’s 18th congressional district. The embattled Republican told a crowd of about 100 that he’ll eventually be cleared of allegations he took bribes from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. His Democratic opponent – Chillicothe mayor Joe Sulzer – says it’s “pure arrogance” that a key figure in the Congressional ethics scandal seeks reelection. WOSU’s Sam Hendren reports.

Only a handful of demonstrators were on hand outside a downtown Chillicothe diner to meet Congressman Ney. The protestors carried signs but a musician dressed in a kilt and hired for the occasion got most of the attention as he played “Scotland The Brave.”

Jarrod Hale from Oak Hill, Ohio, says he was hired by a group called “Clean up Congress;” the tune, an obvious reference to Ney’s lobbyist-financed golfing trip to Scotland. But inside, Ney was unruffled, cracking jokes and criticizing Democrats, including his opponent for reelection the Chillicothe mayor.

“The mayor sends his regrets today, he couldn’t be here. But I think he could come down here because this guy has laid down on the job and the mayor’s got a lot of hot air and he could keep that bagpipe going a lot longer than this guy,” said Ney

Ney told the crowd that if his opponent mayor Joe Sulzer were elected, he’d serve the interests of Nancy Polosi, Howard Dean and John Kerry rather than the people of the 18th district. Ney ran through a list of issues he said Ohioans cared about – the 2nd amendment, tax relief and supporting the military. And he predicted that he’d eventually be exonerated of any wrongdoing in connection with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

“I’ve watched as the liberal establishment in Washington has engaged in a coordinated smear campaign where I am tried, found guilty and executed by them and by the national media. Well I’m here today to make several things clear. Fiction will soon be separated from fact. My name will be cleared; I will be vindicated at the end of the day, this I promise you,” Ney said.

Democratic opponent Joe Sulzer had his own opinion. He says Ney is only running for reelection to raise money to pay legal expenses. And Sulzer says Ney would rather rub shoulders with rich lobbyists than his constituents.

“When you consider that throughout his entire career, Bob Ney has been in this profession to promote his own self interest, as opposed to taking the phrase ‘public servant’ and utilizing that to its fullest extent; when you consider that Bob Ney would rather spend his time with rich lobbyists like Jack Abramoff rather than listening to his constituents, it shows that it’s time for a change,” said Sulzer.

Following the event, Ney left immediately, avoiding reporters. Last week, the chair of the Ohio Republican Party called on the congressman to resign if he’s indicated. A spokesman for Ney dismissed the comment. He said Ney’s popularity in the 18th district speaks for itself. Sam Hendren, WOSU News.