Ohio Senate candidate blames Joe Biden for increased drug overdoses under Donald Trump

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Jane Timken is running for Senate on Trump's immigration policies.

Ohio Republican Senate candidate Jane Timken released a new campaign ad on Tuesday that baselessly blames President Joe Biden's immigration policy for the ongoing opioid crisis. And the evidence she cites in the 30-second spot does not support her attack.

"Under Joe Biden, illegal immigrants and drug cartels are flooding Ohio with heroin and fentanyl," Timken, the former state Republican Party chair, claims. "Now opioid deaths are surging again."

Text on the screen then cites a November Spectrum News report that "Ohio drug overdose deaths jumped 26%."

Timken, a defender of former President Donald Trump and his immigration policy, then says that "as the real Trump conservative" in the race, she will fight to complete the border wall that Trump promised to build and to make Mexico fund. "I approved this message because I'm Trump tough," she concludes.

But the referenced Spectrum News story actually refers to an increase (from 4,410 annual deaths the prior year to 5,585) that occurred between the years ending in April 2020 and April 2021. The higher number came from May 2020 to April 2021 — almost two-thirds of which was during Trump's term in the White House.

According to the most recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics, overdose deaths in Ohio began to spike when the coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020. The state's deaths have leveled off and even started to decline a bit under Biden, though the problem continues nationally.

A Timken spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story, but the campaign's press release said the ad was part of a seven-figure ad buy in major Ohio cities.

Tufts School of Medicine public health expert Thomas Stopka told HealthDay News in October that the COVID-19 pandemic was the reason for the significant increase in opioid overdose fatalities across the United States.

"We were all stressed out about the pandemic, and about infection coming into our neighborhoods, into our homes, into our families," he observed. "That seemed to have an impact on substance use practices."

Trump ran in 2016 on a promise to build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border and completely end the drug problem. "We're going to stop all drug trafficking. It's not going to happen anymore. We're going to stop it," he told CNN that August.

Drug policy experts dismissed the idea of the wall as an effective way to curb trafficking. "Traffickers have a variety of mechanisms at their disposal on how to overcome the wall," the Brookings Institution's Vanda Felbab-Brown told PolitiFact in 2017.

In a Feb. 15 issue brief, the American Medical Association urged that the overdose death epidemic be addressed through "evidence-based care for substance use disorders, pain and harm reduction measures." It made no mention of border walls.

Timken's ad also misleadingly shows a claim on the screen that "Biden's border policies are worsening the opioid crisis."

While that is sourced to a June 2021 "Roll Call op-ed," the ad does not reveal that the opinion piece was authored by retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) — who has endorsed Timken to be his handpicked successor — and Rep. John Katko (R-NY).

Timken is one of several Republicans seeking the open Senate seat this November.

A late February poll by Emerson College Polling and The Hill found Timken trailing Mike Gibbons, former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, and J.D. Vance in the GOP primary.

Rep. Tim Ryan is considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.