EUCLID-- A 6-year-old book mixing politics and religion is sparking debate in the race among candidates for Ohio's 8th House District, the seat now held by Armond Budish.
The book is entitled "Please God Save Us." It's written by Democratic candidate Kent Smith.
The text complements pictures by renowned local artist Derek Hess.
It received many very favorable reviews when it was published.
But some voters and Republicans in the district now have a more negative view.
The book portrays 2008 extreme Republicans in a character, The Red Elephant.
It argues that the religious right has hijacked some of the themes of Christianity.
It's critical of extreme Republicans for their stance on issues including the Mideast war, environmental issues and evolution.
But the Red Elephant is portrayed as a scary , evil creature brandishing a crosstika, a hybrid of a Christian cross and swastika.
Some who first saw the images when Channel 3 showed them were upset.
8th District voter JoAnn Disadoro said, "I find it insulting. I don't care whether you are a Democrat or a Republican it's insulting...I wouldn't want this guy anywhere near government."
Rose Allen, an Independent Jewish voter who claims she left the Democratic party partly because of the book and other issues with Smith said, " What are you thinking wanting to represent a district that is heavily Jewish."
She defends Smith's First Amendment rights but says ,"This is not a private citizens anymore...This is a person seeking public office...How can people feel comfortable that a person with this mindset is going to do a good job in the statehouse."
Smith says, "The art depicts the country's mood at that point (2008). I'm responsible for zero of the artwork."
Smith touts the book on his campaign website. "No one is challenging what I've written. That's because they haven't read it,"
Mikhail Alterman is Jewish and Smith's Republican opponent.
"The whole concept of blasphemy is foreign to him...It is difficult to decide what is more upsetting, the images and the things this book is talking about or the fact that to this day the candidate is oblivious to it and is bragging about it on his campaign website."
Smith declared, "My GOP Tea Party opponents are offended by this book because it's about them."
Asked if he could work with Republicans in Columbus who have seen the book, Smith said, "I am willing to work arm and arm and shoulder to shoulder with anyone who is about the business of improving the lives of Ohioans."
He's served on the Euclid School Board.
Is this a big issue? Smith wrote the words and did not draw the provocative images.
It's now in the eyes of beholders, the voters of the 8th District.