FREMONT, OH (TiffinOhio.net News) — In what is expected to be one of the most brutal primary fights in Ohio state legislative history, a Fremont pastor has reportedly found himself in the middle of the feud.
An insider source with knowledge of the situation, who asked for their identity to be concealed, told TiffinOhio.net News that Pastor Gary Click, the leader of the Fremont Baptist Temple, is leading a new campaign that seeks to “discredit” the Ohio Senate candidacy of Melissa “M.A.” Ackison, a Marysville businesswoman and conservative activist.
According to the source, Click has “engaged in a campaign to vilify [Ackison] by uttering false, destructive, and defamatory statements about her” in meetings and conference calls with conservative leaders, Republican Party officials, faith coalitions, and other politically-aligned groups in the 26th district.
Ackison, who is running in the Republican primary for the District 26 seat in the Ohio Senate, says she is running on a “conservative Republican” platform and criticizes her only primary opponent thus far, State Rep. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin), for “not being conservative enough.”
“He’s a moderate at best, and that’s me being kind,” Ackison said of Reineke.
The district 26 seat is currently held by State Sen. Dave Burke (R-Marysville), who is term-limited and cannot run for re-election.
Click, who, for a short time, supported Ackison’s campaign for U.S. Senate in 2018, appears to have “switched sides” in the 2020 Ohio Senate race. Click is now an avid supporter of Reineke’s candidacy for the 26th district seat, which represents all or part of Sandusky, Seneca, Wyandot, Crawford, Morrow, Marion, and Union counties, a district that Ackison refers to as “God’s country.”
The confidential source tells TiffinOhio.net News that Pastor Click, who also serves as a State Central Committeeman for the Ohio Republican Party and serves on Governor Mike DeWine’s Faith Advisory Council, is embarking on a “Stop Melissa Ackison” tour around the district, particularly in the Fremont area.
“Among other things, [Click] is trying to paint a picture that Melissa is an anti-Semitic terrorist sympathizer, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” a source familiar with the “Stop Melissa Ackison” tours told us.
“Gary has a very influential platform as a faith leader. He has prayed at President Trump’s events, conducts our invocations at Republican events and he pastors a church with people who are looking to him for Christian leadership,” the source continued.
The “anti-Semitism” controversy stems from, among other things, a Facebook post Ackison made in March which questioned the immense influence that lobbying groups such as AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) have on the American government.
“The post contains nothing that could be possibly construed as conveying a prejudicial message concerning the Jewish people, the State of Israel, or pro-Israel lobbying groups. It is not anti-Semitic to question the influence of a particular lobbying group as all candidates to some extent draw attention to ‘special interest groups’,” a source close to Ackison’s campaign said.
As recently as this week, Pastor Click posted a message to Facebook criticizing Ackison. “Am I the only one who finds it strange that Melissa Ackison threatens to destroy people’s political careers when she doesn’t even have one of her own? Just a question,” Click asked in a message to Facebook on Tuesday.
Followers of Click weighed in on his comments, showing signs of confusion as to why an influential pastor is becoming so involved in a bitter GOP primary fight.
“Gary Click as a pastor, shouldn’t you be trying to diffuse this situation? As a Christian myself, I find this kind of tar and feathering to be very disturbing. Melissa Ackison is a good person. She loves America, is a inspiration to many, including myself,” an area man replied to Click’s post.
“I believe she makes some valid points. Perhaps you should search your heart and weigh whether your capable of balancing politics and your faith to Christ at the same time. Politics is a nasty business. Is it effecting your ministry or how you would usually behave? Please give it some thought. I respect both of you. Please find a way to heal this,” the man continued.
When asked about his comments on Ackison, Click replied, “Personally, I’m immune to her. I’ve ignored her for over a year. My calling is to speak up for others. She reaks [sic] havoc every where she goes and with everyone she touches. She hurts people and I am giving them a voice.”
Click gained national attention in 2018 after he riled up defenders of the news media with his prayer before President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Delaware County.
“Tonight I pray that you will protect our president, and his family, with a shield of faith. Lord, that shield of faith against the fiery darts of the wicked one. Lord, against that jungle of journalism that distorts truth and distorts honesty and integrity every single day — gets in his face with lies and mistruths and innuendo,” Click said at the rally.
Click acknowledged in an interview that he agrees with some of Trump’s attacks on the media, particularly a “specific breed of predatory journalism that is uncivilized and has a preconceived story line before they write” — news organizations such as CNN.
“That was not an attack on all journalism. There are genuine journalists out there who do a fine job,” Click said. “I believe in a free press, I just don’t believe in a free pass. Who holds journalists accountable? Every one of of us need to be held accountable … I didn’t pray for God to strike (journalists) down, I did not seek violence.”
The primary election will take place in May 2020.