The lies are flying in the race for Ohio’s 96th District

Tim Tolka
3 min readOct 22, 2020

The lies are flying as the race between Democratic candidate Richard Olivito and the Republican Ron Ferguson heats up for the Ohio House of Representatives of the 96th District, including Jefferson, Belmont, and Monroe Counties. Ferguson’s campaign has been packing residents’ mailboxes with absurd allegations in lying flyers, which raises the question if the Ohio GOP actually did any opposition research whatsoever on their opponent.

One mailer accuses Olivito of “watching us suffer,” and “sitting back, relaxing, and watching it all unfold.” Another accuses the Democratic candidate who fought for the rights of working people for twenty years as a civil rights, criminal defense and medical malpractice attorney of being indifferent to the concerns of working people and yet another of setting his sights on “dangerous policies.”

It’s hard to find any reference to a real policy, much less anything Mr. Olivito has ever said or done, and that’s likely because the GOP knows Olivito’s policies are “dangerous” only to the GOP, whose policies are broadly unpopular among voters in the union-strong 96th District and beyond.

For this reason, Ron Ferguson and his GOP colleagues are jousting with windmills, rather than debating real policies for working people. They know the voters recognize the smell of stale shit, and so they focus on conservative boogeymen, like AOC, the Green New Deal, and defunding police. In doing so, the GOP attempts to cast Olivito as a radical, which he is not.

The Olivito family goes back generations in Jefferson County, and they have been known as moderate Democrats with a distinguished record in public service. Dominick Olivito, Sr., Richard’s father was a common pleas judge who served WWII and in courts in well over ¾ of Ohio’s 88 counties.

For his part, Richard Olivito is associated with two federal investigations of systemic police misconduct, which were predicated on a raft of civil rights violations that Olivito’s litigation put in the public record. The courts, in the Northern and Southern District of Ohio, obligated the two police departments sued by Olivito and his clients, in Warren and Steubenville, to undergo a multi-year reform program that increased the police budget in order to bring these departments into compliance with modern-day policing standards. In both departments, the chief of police initially fought against the reforms, but eventually, both chiefs admitted that the reforms were the best thing that could have happened to their departments.

This didn’t stop the Ohio GOP from accusing Olivito of trying to “defund the police.” Ironically, Ron Ferguson voted against a police tax levy meant to increase the budget of the Steubenville police. The truth is that Olivito supports the equal application of the law and values due process, to which he dedicated his legal career. No one should operate above the law in a democratic republic, a widely popular notion among American citizens. As the author of Blue Mafia: Police Brutality & Consent Decrees in Ohio, which recounts the unfolding of the federal investigations of police misconduct referred to above, I know the values and history of Richard Olivito.

It makes one wonder what Ferguson does support. We can only look at his record. He was a sports newscaster and later worked for Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded outfit that stands against the Affordable Care Act and fights to weaken the collective bargaining rights of trade unions. With this background, it’s no surprise that Ferguson doesn’t want to talk about his own ideas but would rather attack his opponent with lies.

We can only look at Ferguson’s record. He was a sports newscaster and later worked for Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded outfit that stands against the Affordable Care Act and fights to weaken the collective bargaining rights of trade unions. With this background, it’s no surprise that Ferguson doesn’t want to talk about his own ideas but would rather attack his opponent with lies.

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Tim Tolka

Author, screenwriter, and journalist. Author of Blue Mafia. IL, LA, CO, TX, FL, VA, NYC, DC, and SF. https://www.timtolka.com/