Rumble in Gahanna: Mayoral Race Turns Incendiary
While the mayoral race in Columbus has dominated much of the local political sphere in Central Ohio this year, there’s actually quite a few suburban mayoral races currently taking place. Reynoldsburg, Hilliard, Whitehall and Gahanna residents are all casting votes for mayoral candidates next week. While most of those races have been relatively civilized, the race in Gahanna got a lot more vitriolic this week.
On Saturday, a flyer was delivered to Gahanna residents accusing Mayoral Candidate Joseph Gergley of handing out date-rape drugs at a party by attributing a 2009 quote to him from Facebook stating “Come out early and celebrate. Jello shots, kegs, and Flunitrazepam for anyone who wants it. Gergley will be making liquid dope and your gona get drunkkkk.” Flunitrazepam is another name for Rohypnol.
The flyer was labeled as being paid for by the Ohio Republican Party, and while the Gahanna mayoral race is nonpartisan, Gergley has identified himself as a Republican.
“We think the voters in Gahanna deserve to know about Joe Gergley’s dishonorable past before they decide on who is going to be Mayor,” stated Brittany Warner, Communications Director for the Ohio Republican Party. “Quite frankly, his actions and words are insulting, offensive and not representative of our party.”
Gergley defended himself publicly through responses on the Take Back Gahanna Facebook Group, calling the accusations a lie. Columbus Underground attempted to locate links or screenshots to verify the existence of the cited Facebook post, but was not able to locate any type of confirmation.
“This is the most slanderous piece of literature I’ve ever seen,” Gergley posted on October 24th. “Some people are willing to do anything to win an election. Yes there was alcohol at my 21st birthday, but accusations of those drugs are ludicrous. Never have I been to a party where anything like that was distributed, much less distributed it myself.”
Gergley, now 27, posted additional Facebook comments on October 26th, stating that his opponent Tom Kneeland is actually behind the attack, and specifically named Ohio Republican Party Political Director Brenton Temple as someone who worked with Kneeland’s team to craft the message of the flyer.
“The Republican Party informed me that Tom Kneeland’s campaign designed that mailer attacking me,” he posted. “If you think hiding behind a political party’s postage is non-partisan, you aren’t paying very close attention. My campaign is based on issues, not smears. I wish Tom Kneeland’s campaign would run a respectable campaign, but when candidates can’t stand on their voting record and ideas for the future they choose to attack out of desperation. I believe Gahanna voters will see through it.”
Gergley also posted on October 26th that he was not going to comment further on the content of the mailer, as he would be pursuing legal action. Warner confirmed that the Ohio Republican Party “did receive a letter from Mr. Gergley, who is not an attorney”.
When asked for comment, Kneeland denied having any connection to the flyer.
“My campaign did not send or pay for that literature piece, it was the Ohio Republican Party’s piece,” he stated. “My focus has been sharing my plan for Gahanna, the issues important to our community and my professional experience and credentials for the job. Although I will say the piece gave me pause from the allegations of my opponent’s indiscretions that were presented, I’m focusing my attention on talking with residents and sharing my action plan for our community.”
While the Gahanna mayoral race is nonpartisan, and no party affiliations were officially filed for either candidate, Warner stated that Kneeland has been endorsed by the Franklin County Republican Party. The flyer was first brought to the attention of Columbus Underground via email by Brian Metzbower, who currently serves as the Executive Director of the Franklin County Republican Party, and is currently running for a seat on Gahanna City Council. He noted that his personal email was being sent “as a private citizen” and was not affiliated with his job with the GOP.
Controversy surrounding social media posts is not a new issue for Gergley during this election cycle. The Columbus Dispatch reported in May that multiple tweets from Gergley’s personal twitter account contained insensitive comments. He referred to the tweets as being sarcastic and taken out of context, immediately deleted that twitter account, and wrote a lengthy apology a few days later on his campaign’s Facebook page.
Gergley declined an offer to comment further on the issue at this point in time.
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