House races

House races

Ohio Republican sued, accused of sexual assault; calls claim politically motivated

Used-car dealer Tom Ganley (R) was supposed to be one of the Republicans' top prospects this cycle, in part because of his vast personal fortune.

The wealthy businessman was able to relieve some of the GOP's financial burden and allow the National Republican Congressional Committee to shift its resources to other candidates.

Ganley, who is challenging Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), has pumped millions of dollars from his own money into his campaign. He was owed $2.8 million by his campaign at the end of June, when he reported having some $2.7 million cash on hand.

But for all that money, the GOP might miss out on a chance to knock off a vulnerable Democrat. The Cleveland Plain Dealer on Thursday night reported Ganley is being sued by a woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her in his office last year.

From the Plain Dealer:


His accuser said she attended a Cleveland Tea Party rally where Ganley spoke on July 3, 2009, when he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate, before he decided to run for Congress. Impressed by Ganley's anti-abortion platform, the lawsuit says, the woman approached him, introduced herself and her children and offered to volunteer on his campaign. 

The woman then visited Ganley's Chevrolet dealership on Lorain Avenue in Cleveland three times during the following weeks, to discuss volunteer campaign duties and a reduction in the interest rate on a car loan she received from a Ganley dealership, the lawsuit says. 

Ganley talked during the meetings about fixing her van for free, reducing her interest rate and giving her a job at a dealership, according to the suit.

In their second meeting, Ganley told the woman that he and his wife lead separate lives and live on opposite sides of their home, the suit says. In each of the meetings, the suit says, Ganley pressed her about what she does for "fun."

On her last visit to Ganley's office, Aug. 1, the woman said she dropped off her van for repairs. While she waited in Ganley's office, the suit says, he made sexually suggestive comments and invited her to join him and his friends at a condominium he owns in Strongsville. Ganley gave her a $100 bill and told her to buy some lingerie and high-heeled shoes, according to the lawsuit. 

Ganley told her he wanted her to dominate her, parade her on a leash and have sex with her in front of his "play friends," the suit says. It accuses him of grabbing her from behind, wrapping his arms around her, kissing her and, despite her resistance, reaching into her pants.

No report made to police.

The woman said she never reported the incident to police because she didn't think anyone would believe her, partly because of Ganley's ties to law enforcement. Ganley runs Crime Stoppers of Northern Ohio, a crime tip line that works closely with police, and is well known for having helped the FBI with an organized crime investigation. 

Shortly after the incident, however, the woman told several of her friends about it, the lawsuit says. Encouraged by a mutual friend, the woman approached attorney Ed Heben on Oct. 1 and told him her story, Heben said. 

On Oct. 9, she wrote a letter to Ganley, chastising him for his actions. 

"I came to you as a customer and you treated me like a hooker," she wrote in the letter, included with the lawsuit. "On one hand here's this man I respect, who's helping me and then I felt at the same time that I was being completely taken advantage of. 

"You are no different than the Democrats," she said. She is a registered Republican.

Ganley's lawyer, former prosecutor Steve Dever, called the charges extortion and said they were motivated by politics. 

"These are baseless allegations, the only motive being to extort money and to cause political harm to a good and decent man," Dever said Thursday night. "Tom Ganley is not the type of person who's going to back down from threats and be extorted for financial gain."

— This post was updated at 3:55 p.m.

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Rep. Stupak looks to anoint successor

Retiring Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) formally endorsed his Democratic successor on Thursday. 

The nine-term congressman announced he was backing state Rep. Gary McDowell (D) in his race against Republican Dan Benishek. "His experience as a farmer, UPS driver, public servant, husband, father and grandfather provide him with the experience and life skills necessary to be an effective advocate for the people of Michigan’s 1st District," Stupak said in a statement. 

Stupak said he plans to make campaign appearances for McDowell in October.

The announcement was noteworthy because the McDowell campaign suggested in September that Benishek and the National Republican Congressional Committee were treating the Democrat as the incumbent. They were essentially running against Stupak even though he wasn't on the ticket, a McDowell campaign spokesman told reporters. One of Benishek's first TV ads, for instance, singles out the healthcare bill. "A thousand pages, and no one read it," the Republican says in the spot.

If that's the GOP’s strategy, it may get easier when the two Democrats hit the trail together. 



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Biden on West Coast fundraising swing for Dems

California Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) is finally getting some help from national Democrats: Vice President Joe Biden is slated to attend a fundraising event in Oakland on Friday for the two-term congressman.

McNerney rode into office on the Democratic wave in 2006, defeating seven-term incumbent Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.). He now holds one of the most competitive districts in the state, which stretches from the eastern San Francisco suburbs to San Joaquin County.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has been running ads against McNerney, without a response from the national Democrats. 

After raising money for McNerney, Biden will travel to Orange County, where he'll do an event for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Tickets for the Laguna Beach fundraiser range from $500 to $10,000.

In advance of Biden's visit, Boxer's opponent, Republican Carly Fiorina, released a video highlighting a disagreement the two Democrats had in the Senate. In 2007, Boxer voted against a supplemental funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fiorina's video incorporates footage of Biden on the presidential campaign trail in Iowa railing against his colleagues who did so to make a "political point."


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RACE OF THE DAY: Texas-17

In two years, Rep. Chet Edwards has gone from rumored VP to one of many centrist Democrats fighting for reelection.

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Anti-abortion group erects billboards in Dem districts

The Susan B. Anthony List is keeping up the pressure on pro-life Democrats who voted for the healthcare reform bill.

Up until now, it's focused on direct mail and radio spots, but next week drivers in districts from Indiana to Pennsylvania will see billboards pronouncing "shame on" the member for his or her vote (an image of one of the billboards going up in Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper's Pennsylvania district is below).

The anti-abortion group dropped $55,000 on 32 billboards that are scheduled to be up next week and run until at least Oct. 31, according to a spokesman for the SBA. The billboards will also appear in Reps. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Steve Driehaus' districts (D-Ohio).

Anti-abortion advocates believe the Democrats' healthcare legislation opened the door to taxpayer funding of abortion procedures and are targeting the pro-life members of the party who voted for it.

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MoveOn.org brings in big money for embattled Dems

Democrats' liberal allies haven't deserted them -- at least when it comes to fundraising.

The liberal activist group MoveOn.org announced Thursday it raised $500,000 from its members for Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D), who's facing a surprisingly tough challenge from businessman Ron Johnson (R).

The group also raised $125,000 for Rep. Alan Grayson. The Florida Democrat is a long-time target for conservatives but possibly even more so after he released a TV ad labeling Daniel Webster, his Republican opponent, "Taliban Dan."

MoveOn.org said it also raised $100,000 for Virginia Rep. Tom Perriello, a freshman Democrat locked in a tough race against Republican Robert Hurt.

"The past few days have shown that progressives are stepping up in a big way for leaders, like Russ Feingold and Tom Perriello, who're willing to fight the real fight -- combating corporate interests to put democracy back in the hands of the American people," Justin Ruben, MoveOn.org's executive director, said in a statement.

The announcement comes amid reports that large Democratic donors are sitting this election cycle out. George Soros and billionaire Peter Lewis, who each gave more than $20 million to Democratic-aligned groups in the 2004 election, have been less generous so far this cycle, according to the New York Times.

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Tea Party activists to subpoena Rep. Grayson

A group of Florida Tea Party activists plan to subpoena Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and a local political consultant Thursday as part of a lawsuit that alleges the congressman played a role in putting forth a sham Tea Party candidate to aid his own reelection bid. 

According to the Orlando Sentinel, a subpoena was served to Grayson's wife at their Florida home Wednesday while the congressman was in Washington, D.C. 

"It's obviously a publicity stunt," Grayson said. "The timing is no coincidence. This lawsuit has been going on for months. Why would they suddenly need my testimony two weeks before the election?"

It's the latest twist in a months-long battle over the tea party identity — a battle that's grown statewide but is centered in Grayson's Central Florida district.

Members of the tea party movement accuse Grayson, a liberal Democrat, of colluding with Guetzloe, a Republican consultant and one of the founders of the Florida Tea Party political party. The party's first candidate was Peg Dunmire, a business consultant running in Grayson's 8th District.

Florida Republican Party officials contend that Dunmire is a spoiler meant to pull conservative votes away from Webster, easing the way for Grayson's re-election.

Grayson faces a tough race against state Sen. Daniel Webster (R) this fall and has been under fire for the past week over his latest attack ad. 

Grayson labels Webster, "Taliban Dan" in the ad and attempts to paint the Republican as a religious extremist by employing footage from a Webster speech at a Christian conference in 2009. Grayson has defended the ad, but video of Webster's speech shows the ad quotes the Republican out of context.  

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