LIMA — State Rep. Keith Faber said he didn’t start his campaign with negative ads in mind, but he’s going to finish the race with them on the air.
Since the Ohio Auditor race moved past the primary in May, Faber, R-Celina, has had to shift his campaign tactics to counter his Democratic opponent, Zack Space, D-Dover, who has been labeling Faber a corrupt politician who takes cues from lobbyists.
To Space’s credit, the narrative isn’t completely without foundation. Scandal surrounds the statehouse thanks in part to two major events — the misuse of state dollars by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow and the resignation of Cliff Rosenberger, Ohio’s House speaker, earlier this year after being put under investigation by the FBI.
Faber, who was Senate president when both events began to unfold, denies any serious involvement or knowledge of wrongdoing. Space, however, says otherwise, and the two have been countering each other back-and-forth regarding such topics as ECOT, tax bills, doctored photos and their personal records ever since they set their eyes on the Ohio Auditor’s Office.
“It wasn’t until we got in the summertime that we had to look at the tone. At some point, you say, ‘Look, I have to defend myself.’ But I’m happier talking about the office,” Faber said. “I’m running to do the job. I’m not running for some other political office. I’m not running to make the auditor’s office impactful in some other political office.”
The latest tiff released this weekend involved late paperwork. Faber originally broke a story pointing out that Space allowed his law license to be suspended due to missing the renewal notice, among other points. Space shot back later when he found evidence of late tax filings in Faber’s record. Both allege the other lacks the attention to detail to be state auditor.
But what has been missing from much of the race has been dialogue on some of the issues between the two candidates. Much of Space’s campaign has centered around rooting out the corrupting influence of money in politics. Faber, however, said he has chosen to run on what he calls his policy experience that can help him do the job of auditor “on day one.”
“I’m not running to weaponize the auditor’s office to take any issues I have with policies I don’t agree with,” Faber said. “I’m not running to be a superlegislator. I’ve done the legislative role. I understand the distinctions.”
“This is Bob and Betty Buckeye’s money. It’s not government’s money. It’s not some specific entity’s money. It’s the money of Ohio taxpayers. And it’s all of our obligations to spend it as sufficiently and effectively and transparently as possible,” Faber said.
Faber gave a quick synopsis of some actions he would be willing to take to increase state efficiency — examining the effectiveness of ODOT’s projects, looking at how hospitals use billing codes and investigating the processes of drug courts. Faber also said he would expand performance reviews of other state agencies.
“I don’t necessarily think the race comes down to who runs the biggest negative ads. I hope it comes down people looking to see who is the most qualified person to do the job on day one,” Faber said.
Spokesman for Zack Space, Nathan Cotton responded to Faber’s experience claims: “Keith Faber has failed working-class families across northwest Ohio throughout his political career. Faber is a central figure in the ECOT scam — the largest political scandal in Ohio history — and allowed the for-profit charter school to bilk over $750,000 from Lima City Schools last year alone.”
“At the same time, Faber was helping ECOT steal taxpayer dollars, he was failing to pay his own — incurring 22 individual penalties for failing to pay over $5,500 in taxes on time.”
The two candidates are scheduled to debate noon Friday at Zane State College’s Advanced Science & Technology Center in Zanesville. The event will be streamed online by WHIZ-TV.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.