GOP ad targeting Ohio House nominee is latest in a series of lies against Black candidates

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A new campaign ad falsely claims that by backing bail reform, Ohio state Rep. Emilia Sykes has pushed to release 'dangerous criminals.'

A Republican super PAC is accusing Ohio state Rep. Emilia Sykes, a Democrat running for the state's 13th Congressional District, of wanting to release "dangerous criminals" onto the streets in a new attack ad full of false information.

Sykes, who is Black, is among a number of candidates of color being accused in Republican campaign ads of being soft on violent crime.

The new ad, released Sept. 14 by the Congressional Leadership Fund, attacks state Sykes for co-sponsoring a bipartisan proposal in the Ohio Legislature to reform the state's criminal system. That bill would allow judges to decide whether to allow people accused of a crime to wait at home instead of in jail based on the danger they are judged to pose to the public rather than if they can afford to pay cash bail.

As the video shows an unhappy-looking child in the arms of an adult, the ad's narrator says in an emotion-filled voice: "Do you support releasing violent criminals into our community? Extreme liberal Emilia Sykes does. Sykes co-sponsored the bill releasing dangerous criminals. An Ohio prosecutor warned Emilia Sykes' plan would 'put all of us in danger' and that Sykes' plan makes 'mothers and children less safe walking to the bus and playing in their parks.'" The citations for the quotes note that the source is "Cincinnati Enquirer (opinion)" without specifying that it is the work of a single Republican prosecuting attorney, not of the newspaper's editorial staff.

Studies show, however, that eliminating cash bail, money that people who have been charged with a crime must pay as collateral against their appearing later for court dates, does not increase danger to the public. The Center for American Progress noted in a report on the system published in 2020: "In effect, the cash bail system criminalizes poverty, as people who are unable to afford bail are detained while they await trial for weeks or even months. Cash bail perpetuates inequities in the justice system that are disproportionately felt by communities of color and those experiencing poverty. Spending even a few days in jail can result in people losing their job, housing, and even custody of their children."

If cash bail were eliminated for individuals who aren't considered a danger to the public, judges would retain the ability to maintain bail requirements for those who are.

Patrick Higgins, policy counsel for ACLU Ohio, told ABC News affiliate WEWS in Cleveland in May: "We're setting high cash bail worth, then enshrining that system of wealth-based attention where the person who has money can purchase the release, even if they commit the same crime as a person who can now purchase that release. There's as many as 12,000 people in Ohio jails who are awaiting trial — they're legally innocent, not yet convicted of a crime."

The ad against Sykes is part of a multimillion dollar campaign by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

 

The quotes in the ad come from an opinion piece written by Republican prosecutor Joseph Deters and published in the Cincinnati Enquirer in July. Deters, the prosecuting attorney of Hamilton County and a former Ohio state treasurer, boasts on his official website of his successful work to "streamline litigation in death penalty cases" and "for laws permitting certain violent juveniles to be incarcerated until the age of 21."

Deters, who is white, defends the cash bail system in his opinion column:

The truth is, the culture of excusing the bad behavior of bad people hurts our communities – and hurts our Black communities disproportionately. The false narrative that police are hunting Black men in the streets hurts the Black community. The belief that we should reduce sentences of violent people because of "systemic racism" hurts the Black community. And releasing dangerous criminals pretrial – as House Bill 315 and Senate Bill 182 would do – will hurt the Black community and put all of us in danger.

According to the results of a June 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation poll of Black Americans, more than one fifth of respondents said they have been the victim of police violence in the past, including three out of 10 Black men.

Sykes is not the only candidate of color who is being attacked over their position on bail reform.

The National Republican Congressional Committee released ads on Friday — in both English and Spanish — accusing the Democratic nominee in Texas' 15th Congressional District, Michelle Vallejo, whose parents immigrated from Mexico, of being "different" and a "pure radical." Both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Senate Leadership Fund have dishonestly targeted Wisconsin Democratic Senate nominee Mandela Barnes, who is Black and is the state's lieutenant governor, of wanting to release dangerous criminals.

Sykes will face the Republican nominee in the race, conservative pundit and 2020 Donald Trump elector Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, in November. The Cook Political Report lists the open-seat race as a toss-up.

Update: On Sept. 22, the Congressional Leadership Fund released another ad featuring the same dishonest line of attack against Sykes, falsely claiming that under the cash bail reform legislation, "most domestic violence offenders must be released." The spot makes no mention of her bipartisan work to expand protections for domestic violence victims.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.