COLUMBUS (TDB) -- State Rep. Bob Latta plans to file a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission Tuesday that accuses his Republican primary opponent and the Club for Growth of making false statements about a 1998 sales tax vote. Latta's legal filing says he did not raise taxes, but voted only "to place an issue on the Ohio ballot to allow voters to decide whether or not to raise state sales taxes while lowering local property taxes." But both State Sen. Steve Buehrer and the Club for Growth have distributed materials saying Latta voted for a "$1 billion tax hike in 1998."
Latta faces Buehrer in an increasingly bitter primary for the GOP nomination in Ohio's 5th Congressional district, which covers a broad swath of NW Ohio. The seat became vacant after Paul Gillmor died suddenly last month. The Club for Growth, an ultra-conservative anti-tax group, has endorsed Buehrer and is pledging to spend up to $75,000 on ads in his behalf.
Latta's Ohio Election Commission complaint was prepared by Scott Pullins, a Mount Vernon lawyer and GOP activist who represents the campaign.
Matthew Parker, Latta's campaign manager, told The Daily Bellwether that it simply is not true that Latta voted to raise taxes in 1998.
"He didn't support a tax hike. He voted to put it before the voters in a referendum, where it failed by a huge margin. They are not telling the truth about Bob Latta's record. It's an effort to distort his record."
Parker said Latta received an award that year as "Watchdog of the Treasury" for opposing taxes, and also was voted outstanding freshman legislator by the United Conservatives of Ohio.
A draft of the complaint to be filed in the Ohio Elections Commission shows that the 1998 referendum has become a much-litigated issue. In April of that year, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the measure did not levy any new taxes, but "merely authorizes the electorate to determine whether the proposed taxes should be levied."
And that same month, the Ohio Elections Commission found probable cause that a GOP candidate, Lisa Pfeifer, made a false statement in a campaign flier when she said her opponent had voted for a $1 billion tax increase. The wrangling in that case appears to be a replay of Latta's showdown with Buuehrer and the Club for Growth.
Pullins said he wants an expedited hearing on Latta's complaint. The primary is less than a month away.