WHEELING - Rep. Bill Johnson and his predecessor, Charles Wilson, each allege the other has made false public statements recently, and each has filed complaints against the other with the Ohio Elections Board.
Now Johnson, a Republican serving his first term in Congress, said he will consider no additional debates against the Democrat, until Wilson apologizes.
Wilson and Johnson debated in Marietta Monday night, and have agreed to a second scheduled debate Oct. 11 in Steubenville hosted by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. Johnson's campaign said Monday they will honor the commitment made to the Steubenville event.
"Ohio Elections Commission found that it's probable that Charlie Wilson lied about Bill Johnson," said Rachel Jacobs, campaign manager for Johnson. "Wilson has continued that lie throughout the campaign and now Ohio's top elections watchdog panel has called him in it. Until and unless Wilson apologizes for his lie and agrees to not repeat it in any kind or variation, the Johnson campaign will agree to no more debates."
Issues between the two began when Wilson released advertising last month stating Johnson had "voted twice to kill Medicare" since he defeated Wilson and office in January 2011.
Johnson responded by filing a complaint with the Ohio Elections Board, calling the claim a mistruth. The board held a panel screening of the complaint on Sept. 20, and ruled 4-0 there was probable cause to hear the complaint before the full board in October prior to the Nov. 6 election. A date for the hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Wilson's campaign then filed its own complaint after Johnson's staff released a statement announcing the ruling.
"If the full panel finds a false statement, the violation is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail," the Johnson's statement said. "After the panel found probable cause, Charlie Wilson was served with a deposition subpoena so that he must answer questions about his ad and probably false statements."
Wilson's campaign said it was never subpoenaed, and objects to the Johnson statement about the misdemeanor and jail time.
Mark Weaver, a spokesman for the Johnson campaign, said Wilson did receive a deposition subpoena, which is a request to come give a deposition.
"And Ohio law does in fact does make it a first degree misdemeanor when you violate election code," he said.
A screening on the Wilson complaint against Johnson is set to go before the state Election Commission Wednesday morning. If probable cause is found, the case also will go before the full commission in October.
"It's a shame Congressman Johnson is attempting to distract voters from the truth," said J.R. Starrett, campaign manager for Wilson. "He voted to kill the Medicare system, that we know."