11/02/2012 06:42 pm ET Updated Nov 02, 2012

Josh Mandel, Ohio Senate Candidate, Criticized By Wife's Cousins

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel, left, speaks during a round table discussion at the Country Inn Restaurant, Thu
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel, left, speaks during a round table discussion at the Country Inn Restaurant, Thursday, July 5, 2012, in Georgetown, Ohio. Mandel, hoping to unseat Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, said Thursday the federal health care overhaul is a pivotal issue in their campaign. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

The Republican nominee for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, is being criticized by his wife's cousins, who bought an ad in a Cleveland newspaper opposing his candidacy.

In the full page ad in the Cleveland Jewish News, eight members of the Ratner family -- including real estate developer Bruce Ratner and human rights attorney Michael Ratner -- signed a letter criticizing Mandel's opposition to same-sex marriage. Mandel's wife, Ilana Shafran Mandel, is a member of the wealthy Ratner family.

In the ad, the Ratners write that Mrs. Mandel's cousin, Ellen Ratner, was married eight years ago in Massachusetts to Cholene Espinoza. The letter notes that Espinoza is an Air Force veteran, and criticizes Mandel, a Marine Corps veteran, for his opposition to allowing gays to serve openly in the military.

The letter says:

We are equally distressed by your belief that gay men and women should not be allowed to serve openly in the military. Like you, Cholene spent many years in the armed forces. A graduate of the Air Force Academy and an accomplished pilot, she became the second woman in history to fly the U-2 reconnaissance plane. And yet, you have argued that she, like many gay and lesbian soldiers, should be forced to live a life of secrecy and lies.

Josh, as you know, our roots are deep in the Cleveland area and we have friends and family we love throughout Ohio. This family is sprawling and diverse, but it has always believed strongly in the values of equality and inclusiveness. Your discriminatory stance violates these core values of our family. Nevertheless we hope that over time, as you advance in years and wisdom, you will come to embrace the values of inclusiveness and equality as well.

Several of the Ratners, including Bruce, have donated to the campaign of Mandel's opponent, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D).

Mandel discussed his opposition to same-sex marriage during an Oct. 18 debate with Brown, who supports same-sex marriage. At the time, Mandel said that while he opposed same-sex marriage and the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, he does not condone discrimination.

"I will represent all of the people of Ohio, regardless of their background," Mandel said in the debate. "I don't care if you are a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian or a vegetarian, I will be blind to race, religion or any kind of orientation."

Ontheissues.org reports that Mandel backed same-sex domestic partner benefits while student government president at Ohio State University in 2000, but has since reversed his stance.

Mandel campaign spokesman Travis Considine did not respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post, but told the Columbus Dispatch that Mandel did not even know the Ratners in the ad.

"Josh has never met any of those 'cousins' who signed that letter and has no idea who they are," Considine told the Dispatch. "He looks forward to having the opportunity to meet them someday -- if they ever come to Ohio."

Brown's spokesman, Justin Barasky, was quick to tie the Mandel/Ratner feud to the backing Mandel has received from various outside groups that have spent close to $30 million to oppose Brown.

"Aside from the secretly funded special interests who have spent roughly $31 million dollars on his behalf, it seems there's almost no one who doesn't find Josh Mandel's anti-middle class positions offensive," Barasky told HuffPost.

The ad comes one day after Mandel debuted an ad that included people describing him as having integrity and being "well-mannered."



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