Rep. Joyce Beatty calls Morgan Harper’s attack on real-estate deal ’desperate’

Anna Staver,Rick Rouan
Morgan Harper, right, is challenging Rep. Joyce Beatty in the Democratic primary in Ohio’s 3rd Congressional District. [File photos]

U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty wasn’t on the stage at a candidates forum Wednesday night at Columbus Downtown High School, but that didn’t stop her primary challenger, Morgan Harper, from calling her out.

Beatty, D-Columbus, stayed in Washington to vote on an $8.3 billion spending package to help fight the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

“That vote passed by over 400 people,” Harper said before launching into an attack.

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She accused Beatty of “brokering behind-the-scenes real-estate deals that are gentrifying our communities” and making “money off the payday-lending industry that traps us in debt.”

The claims come from an article published Tuesday by The Intercept alleging that the 3rd District representative and her husband, Otto Beatty Jr., made a lot of money selling a property that the couple owned in Columbus to a developer while Otto Beatty sat on the zoning board that approved the sale.

In an interview Thursday with The Dispatch, Joyce Beatty called both the article and Harper’s attack a distortion of her husband’s record and a “desperate thing to do.”

“(Wednesday) night was a clear demonstration of a candidate who put politics before people,” Beatty said of Harper.

Regarding the decision to stay in Washington rather than return for the forum, Beatty said: “It would have been irresponsible to be there, as much as I wanted to attend.”

Otto Beatty had called the article “dirty politics” during a phone interview with The Dispatch on Wednesday.

“The idea that Joyce Beatty had anything to do with me getting a certain price for this property is ridiculous,” he said.

Otto Beatty sold the 229 S. High St. property, which he had acquired in 1981, for $800,000 in December 2013, according to Franklin County property records.

At that time, he was a member of the Downtown Commission, which reviewed a request to demolish the existing structures on the property and replace them with a high-rise apartment building. Otto Beatty told the commission in November 2013 that keeping the existing buildings is “not there” and the project was good for Downtown, but he didn’t vote on it.

Members of the board knew that Otto Beatty had been trying to sell the property, he told The Dispatch on Wednesday.

“Everybody knew that I had been trying to sell the building and maybe even participate in the development,” he said. “... I’m being criticized for selling a piece of property that I owned for years and years and years, and everything on High Street, every piece of property in Columbus, Ohio, has appreciated, including mine.”

He said he also has advocated for Downtown development for years on properties that he doesn’t own. Joyce Beatty added that they recently donated a small parcel of land to Nationwide Children’s Hospital so it could create green space for patients.

Joyce Beatty said of Harper: “I think that was a desperate thing to do to attack my husband. While she talked about that property, she wasn’t here to understand that was a huge revitalization.”

Harper, however, earned applause from the forum audience when she said the sale was evidence of the larger problem with money in politics and one that she aims to fix by not accepting corporate money and by limiting the number of terms she’d serve.

“It’s not about me, it’s not about my career, and it’s not about getting rich,” Harper said. “It’s about the people of this district.”

Joyce Beatty disagreed, telling The Dispatch that she’s troubled by the amount of money flowing into Harper’s campaign from outside Ohio and by the challenger’s inability to name a Republican she would work with if elected.

“I think it’s very naive for anyone to think that your votes alone and your thoughts alone can get anything accomplished ... ,” Joyce Beatty said. “I think that’s because she doesn’t know the district, and she doesn’t have real answers on civility and how to get legislation passed.”



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