Donnelly counters TV commercials; Chocola fires back that ads fit the candidate.
Any question as to whether the 2nd District congressional race will be a slugfest was answered in the affirmative Thursday.
It began with a news conference held by Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly in which he accused Republican incumbent Chris Chocola of making "false allegations" and "mudslinging" in a new series of campaign commercials that began airing this week on area television stations.
The ad buy is restricted to the South Bend television market, according to Chocola spokesman Brooks Kochvar, who said the spots are scheduled to run for one week.
"It is sad that in May we have to deal with this type of nonsense," Donnelly said.
Although his comments came on the first day of June, the ads Donnelly was referring to began Wednesday.
"Unlike the claims Chris Chocola makes in his ad, I have consistently supported making tax cuts that provide relief to our middle-class families, farm families, small businesses and seniors," Donnelly said.
"Unfortunately," he added, "Chris Chocola has made it clear he is more interested in engaging in partisan attacks and mudslinging than representing the people of Indiana's 2nd District."
Chocola, who has been targeted for the past several weeks in ads paid for by MoveOn.org, was unmoved by Donnelly's assertions.
"Joe Donnelly's friends have been beating me up for about five weeks with blatantly false ads," Chocola said in response, adding, "I think it's appropriate to set the record straight, and that's what this ad does."
The ad copy states:
"Joe Donnelly's liberal allies are falsely attacking Chris Chocola. The Elkhart Truth calls their attacks clear distortions and blatantly false. So why the false attacks?
"The liberals support Donnelly's campaign for higher taxes. It's true. Local papers report Donnelly supports higher taxes on families, farmers, small businesses, even higher taxes on seniors.
"Joe Donnelly, supporting higher taxes, hiding behind false attacks."
Donnelly said he had no hand in the MoveOn.org ads and is not permitted under federal election law to have dealings with that organization, a Washington, D.C., political action group.
"Chocola knows that," Donnelly said, adding that Chocola also knows that he, Donnelly, "has never been in favor of raising anyone's taxes."
Donnelly referred to the coming campaign as a "five-month food fight" and said, "I don't want any part of it."
Instead, Donnelly promised, he will "stay positive" and run an "issue-oriented campaign."
Those issues, which include the war in Iraq, alternative energy sources and the price of gasoline, "are a lot bigger than attack ads," Donnelly said.
The Democrat, saying he believes he and Chocola are currently in a dead heat, challenged the incumbent to meet in any city in the district to hold town hall meetings or debates. "Any town, any time. We'll talk about issues," Donnelly said.
Currently, no debates between the candidates are scheduled, although the League of Women Voters has been working to set up a televised debate sometime in October.
Chocola defended the ad claims as "factual and accurate," basing the position on his support for -- and Donnelly's opposition to -- making the 2003 tax cuts permanent.
Without that tax bill, Chocola said, the 2003 tax relief would have expired, resulting in automatic increases in the alternative minimum tax and taxes on capital gains and dividends.
According to a statement issued by the Chocola campaign, the alternative minimum tax was intended to prevent people with high incomes from using special tax breaks to pay little or no tax.
Because it has never been adjusted for inflation, the tax has forced a greater tax burden on more middle-class families. A "patch" in the tax bill enables about 18.2 million taxpayers to avoid facing higher taxes, the statement said.
Chocola said that Donnelly also has opposed permanent repeal of the estate tax and thus clearly favors higher taxes.
"You can't construe it any other way," said Chocola, adding that Donnelly can't say he's not supporting higher taxes when he is not supporting tax cuts.
In response to Donnelly's challenge about meeting, Chocola said, "We've always done debates," adding that the campaigns will discuss the appropriate time and place in the future.