Ohio Senate Majority Leader Who Belittled Female Opponent is Widower Who Raised Five Daughters

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Ohio Senate Majority Leader Tom Patton, the Strongsville-area Republican now vying for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, suggested on a pro-labor radio show last week that his opponent was less qualified for the seat, in part, because she was a young mother.

He said in a later statement that the comment was not an insult. Rather, he said, he was speaking from firsthand experience as a widower who raised five daughters. 

Still, his old-fashioned sexism — "gal" and "sweetie" and so forth — is a bad, unprofessional look for the 62-year-old politician. 

"The gal running against me is a 30-year-old, you know, mom, mother of two infants, (sic)" he said. "I don't know if anybody explained to her we've got to spend three nights a week in Columbus. How does that work out for you? I waited until I was 48 and my kids were raised, and at least adults, before we took the opportunity to try."

Patton has served on the state senate for eight years, and served in the House for six years before that. Because of term limits, he'll be running for the House again, facing off against Herold in the March 5 primaries.

His radio interview focused primarily on right-to-work legislation — it's a snoozer — but when Patton was asked about his upcoming campaign, he emphasized his leadership experience. 

"Everyone tells me this young gal, she's done nothing, you've been around," he said. (And it's true that this is Herold's first foray in politics at any level). "And when everyone tells you you've got nothing to worry about, you've got something to worry about." 

He later talked about his success securing school funding for his (the 24th) senate district.

"One of the things my opponent's running [on] is how hard she's going to work on education," he said. "And I want to tell her, 'Hey, sweetie, I just got 27 percent of the pie in just my district.'" 

Herold, a conservative who says she wants to focus on mental health awareness and schools, is now calling on national Republican politicians, via social media, to stand with her against attacks on female GOP politicians. She issued a statement on her Facebook page Thursday morning. 

"[Tom Patton] questioned my intelligence, insinuating I was not aware of the requirements of the State Representative Position," she wrote. "Mr. Patton also specifically implied that I am precluded from running for office until my kids were adults. The decision to run for State Representative is one that my family and I took very seriously when we made it. We realize the sacrifice that is involved in holding such a position. 

"However, Tom Patton has crossed a line by trying to turn the fact that I am a mother of two children into a negative campaign issue. It’s insulting for my opponent to suggest that “motherhood” is a liability. In fact, my experience as a Mom is perhaps my greatest strength." 

Herold questioned whether Patton would make a distinction between young mothers and young fathers. 

Patton responded, in a statement provided to Cleveland.com, that he'd been misunderstood. 

"As a widower who raised five daughters, it was not my intention to suggest that a young mother couldn't serve ably in the legislature," he said. "I used a poor choice of words to express what I know first-hand — raising young children and working is tough. Millions of women do just that every day, including my own daughters. I would ask to be judged on my hard work and advocacy for working families. I sincerely apologize if my words were misplaced on this matter."

Perhaps the sentiments were misplaced, but Patton needs to know that the "Sweetie" stuff is not okay.  


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