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Law Enforcement Investigating Threats Against Two Ohio Democratic Lawmakers

Andy Chow
Ohio Public Radio

An investigation is ongoing into threats targeting two sitting Democratic state lawmakers, a well-known senator from Akron who’s served in both chambers and his daughter, who leads the minority in the Ohio House.

Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said the threats received by state Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and state Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) are "disgusting." After talking to both of them this weekend, Obhof said it was clear the threats were related to their duties as legislators.

“That is a pretty significant felony," Obhof said. "We have spoken to law enforcement, the Senate has, about those matters. They are being investigated.”

Obhof said he's not sure if the threats are related to the coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks, protesters at the Statehouse have included both Republican candidates for office and supporters of President Trump, who has falsely claimed the pandemic is a "Democratic hoax."

Sykes has criticized state leaders for failing to address racial disparities in the coronavirus pandemic, and ignoring the concerns of African American residents.

Obhof said he communicated a message to both lawmakers: “Don’t let those people or their actions change who you are or what you believe or what you do. I think we all here in the Senate stand with Sen. Sykes and with Rep. Sykes in solidarity.”

Obhof and Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko condemned the threats in a joint statement this week. And so did Gov. Mike DeWine, who called the threats "wrong," "reprehensible" and "unconscionable."

Republican House Speaker Larry Householder, who was elected to that position with the help of Democrats led by Emilia Sykes, has yet to release a statement.

On Wednesday, Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken tweeted out condemnation of the threats, writing that such threats of violence "is never acceptable and should not be tolerated."