A Republican Senate primary candidate is attacking the current leader in the GOP primary polls for being Jewish and courting votes from evangelical Christians.
Tech entrepreneur Mark Pukita attacked polling leader Josh Mandel in an ad that is being condemned as antisemitic, suggesting he should not be visiting churches and courting evangelical votes because he is Jewish.
“Josh, nobody should question your faith; that’s not right,” Bernie Moreno told Mandel during a candidate forum Thursday, Politico reported. “The Jewish religion, the Bible is the Bible. That was hard to hear. I’m sorry about that. That’s not right. We’re better than that, guys.”
Mandel is a pro-God, pro-gun, pro-Trump candidate, according to his website. He is an Iraq War veteran and the former Ohio State Treasurer from 2011–2019, having run against Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in 2012.
But Pukita still attempted to attack Mandel for being Jewish in a resoundingly condemned campaign ad, facing criticism he is “antisemitic and intentionally divisive and inflammatory,” as Thursday’s debate moderator noted after the ad.
“In terms of antisemitism, all I did in an ad was pointed out that Josh is going around saying he’s got the Bible in one hand and the constitution in the other, but he’s Jewish,” Pukita responded, Politico reported. “Everybody should know that though, right?”
The male voice in the Pukita radio ad criticized Mandel for courting evangelical Christians and visiting churches on the campaign trail.
“Are we seriously supposed to believe the most Christian-values Senate candidate is Jewish?” the voice in the ad says. “I am so sick of these phony caricatures.”
“I agree,” a woman replies in the ad. “We keep electing people like this, we’ll just keep getting the same terrible results.”
Pukita called the antisemitic claims “ridiculous and defamatory.”
“Mark Pukita is absolutely, unequivocally, undeniably a complete supporter of religious tolerance and of Israel,” campaign spokesman Robert Gray wrote in a statement. “He is not a supporter of phonies and panderers.”
There are seven candidates in the Ohio GOP Senate primary race right now, led by Mandel. Pukita is not yet included in most public polling for the race.
“Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance is currently second polling. Neither he nor former chair of the Ohio Republican Party Jane Timken attended Thursday’s forum debate where Pukita was condemned. Pukita was also criticized in liberal media for boasting he is the only unvaccinated candidate in the race.