An advertisement authorized by Democratic candidate Thomas O'Donnell has incensed Republican Hal Slager in their contest for the 15th Indiana House seat. The district centers on the Tri-Town area, composed of Dyer, St. John and Schererville.
The mailer in question appears to link Slager's support of for-profit corporations taking over troubled public schools with the consequences of a sexual assault at a for-profit alternative school in Pennsylvania eight years ago.
Slager said Tuesday, "It's despicable that I would be associated with a rape in some other state."
The mailer states "Slager's political friends supported the plan that has already given some Hoosier schools to a corporation that argued in court it is not responsible for the safety of students even after one student was raped on its watch."
The advertisement's "Check the Facts" footnote references news reports about a student sexual assaulting another student in 2004 at a Philadelphia school, run by a for-profit firm, which initially argued it was legally immune from a civil suit by the victim's family. The firm eventually settled that suit out of court.
O'Donnell said the rape was a minor detail within the larger issue of Indiana Republican officials encouraging for-profit corporations to take over troubled public schools.
"(Democrats) are opposed to vouchers or balancing the state's budget on the backs of school children. That (mailer) asks the question if that is what Indiana wants," O'Donnell said.
Slager said, "Most folks I've talked to don't understand it, so I haven't been too worried about it. I know this is a Democrat party ad they've run in other races and just change the picture of the candidate.
"But I expected a higher level of campaigning by my opponent. It's an act of desperation," Slager said.
O'Donnell said he was responding to Slager's own attack ad, which O'Donnell said misrepresented his record as a Lake County councilman, by stating O'Donnell voted for a $75 million tax increase.
That is a reference to a 2010 Times investigation that found spending for all county government departments rose by that amount between 2000 and 2008. Spending dropped $18.3 million between 2009 and 2010, O'Donnell's last years on the council.