Theft allegations in GOP primary race for U.S. Senate

WADSWORTH, Ohio – It is shaping up to be a messy, drawn-out fight in the GOP senate primary between Congressman Jim Renacci and Cleveland Businessman Mike Gibbons.

Renacci campaign strategist and spokesman James Slepian says, “This is like Watergate, thought out in crayon."

An allegation of felony theft detailed in a police report was filed by Renacci in Wadsworth on Saturday.

Renacci alleges that on January 11th, his campaign staffers discovered internal documents had been stolen by a former employee, then shared with his opponent.

Slepian says, "She was a field staffer for Jim's gubernatorial campaign. She came on board sometime late last spring and left the gubernatorial campaign in October of 2017 to go work for the Mike Gibbons for Senate campaign."

But on January 5th, Slepian claims the woman accessed internal documents and sent them to her private email account.

That is the same day former Republican senatorial frontrunner Josh Mandel dropped out of the race, fueling speculation that  Renacci, her former employer, might run for senate.

"The Gibbons campaign, who she works for now, used the information in those documents to issue a press release two days later, attacking Jim Renacci and trying to discourage him from running for U.S. Senate,” said Slepian.

The Gibbons campaign denies the allegations and sent a response to FOX 8 which reads in part, "What we learned after speaking with the staffer is that she was a valued volunteer on the Renacci campaign until last week. So valued that Jim Renacci would call her regularly, including at least 6 calls over just 3 days  days AFTER the alleged incident took place - during one of the calls he told her he was not running for the Senate.

But we now know Gibbons and Renacci are in a heated race…a battle that could go from the polls, to a courtroom.

The former staffer has not been charged and did not respond to our requests for comment.

Wadsworth police are investigating.