On Tuesday night, the Ashtabula County Republican Party made a post on social media, claiming that current Ashtabula County Prosecutor Cecilia Cooper said the most important qualification for the position of prosecutor is eating.
The post was then deleted, and another post was made on Wednesday morning claiming that Cooper said the most important qualification is eating at restaurants.
Ashtabula County Republican Party Chairman Charlie Frye claimed that Tuesday night’s post was the result of a mistake made while copying and pasting the post.
“It was a simple mis-type or a mis-cut and paste, where not the entirety of a sentence was put on,” Frye said. “So as soon as I found out about it, I made sure that the post was pulled, and it was put back up this morning and ... corrected. Our party would never insinuate anything like that towards any candidate, period. We don’t do that.”
Frye said he does not use Facebook.
Ashtabula County Democratic Party Chairman Eli Kalil disputed Frye’s claim that it was an accident. The initial post remained on Facebook for three hours, and if it was an accident, it would have been corrected sooner, Kalil said. Kalil said he called Frye and County Auditor Dave Thomas to try and have the post taken down.
“I don’t believe the revised piece was what they were intending to initially put,” Kalil said.
The Republican Party’s facebook page is run entirely by volunteers, Frye said. He declined to say who had made Tuesday night’s post.
“Our volunteers try to source information and put things out there, or counter ... statements by other candidates,” Frye said.
Tuesday night’s post was in response to a post from Cooper’s reelection page, made earlier in the day, about her supporting restaurants in the area, Frye said.
“If anyone pays attention to any of the local Republicans’ Facebook pages, they’re out supporting local businesses, which is great, I strongly encourage that,” Kalil said. “They’re continually posting ‘Hey, we’re eating here, we’re eating there, we’re out supporting this business,’ which is great. I don’t know why you would attack someone for supporting local businesses.”
Frye said the post was not attacking Cooper for supporting local business, it was responding to Cooper’s attacks on O’Toole’s place of residence. “Politicians or people running for office or anybody who’s promoting local business, that’s not a problem,” Frye said. “I have no problem with that. I think [Republican candidate for County Prosecutor] Colleen O’Toole’s done the same thing. ... The attack is basically on Colleen O’Toole not being a long-standing resident of the county.”
O’Toole faced attacks both in the primary election and in the general for working overseas in the United Arab Emirates. O’Toole’s residence in the United States is in Ashtabula. O’Toole was in Ashtabula County for a significant portion of this year, Frye said.
O’Toole condemned Tuesday night’s post by the Ashtabula GOP. “I personally find it unfortunate and condemn the recent post which was issued then retracted by the Ashtabula county Republican party’s facebook page in regard to my opponent,” O’Toole said in a statement. “The comments although retracted and unintentional were inappropriate and in poor taste. This race should be about qualifications and nothing else.”
Cooper also made a statement.
“It’s not what public service is about,” Cooper said. “I’m a public servant. I’ve been a public servant for most of my professional career, and it’s about making your community a better place, and seeing that justice is served. And nothing about what happened (Tuesday) night did anything to achieve that goal. We’re better than that as a community.”
Kalil made a call for civility in the last month and a half of the election season.
“I hope that these last 40-some days, we can keep it about what the candidates will bring to the county, not attacks,” Kalil said.