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Boccieri Says Renacci Should Focus on Local Issues, Not Mosque Controversy

EAST CANTON, Ohio — Freshman Rep. John Boccieri on Wednesday became the latest Ohio Democrat to sidestep whether a mosque should be built near the site of the former World Trade Center towers in lower Manhattan.

In an interview, Boccieri said his Republican opponent Jim Renacci, a former local mayor, should focus on the area’s unemployment rate, which is more than 10 percent, and not an issue of pertinence only to Big Apple residents.

“If Jim Renacci wants to run for the zoning commission in New York City, I’ll be more than happy to pay his filing fee,” Boccieri told a reporter at a local diner.

Boccieri is facing an uphill battle in this Canton-based district, which 2008 GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) won by about 8,000 votes. The National Republican Congressional Committee has a high regard for Renacci, who said in a statement Monday that President Barack Obama’s “irresponsible position” and “disrespectful words” have nationalized the proposed groundbreaking.

“The religious freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution are among the greatest and most fundamental rights that we share as Americans,” Renacci said in the statement. “However, this debate is not about the rights that we have, but rather how we choose to exercise them.”

“Just because we may have the right to do something, doesn’t necessarily make it right to do it,” he added. “This is about tolerance, respect and sensitivity towards the 9/11 victims and those who lost friends and loved ones in those horrific attacks.”

Boccieri’s statement Wednesday appeared to follow his home-state Democratic colleagues. On Tuesday, Reps. Betty Sutton and Marcy Kaptur made similar comments to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

“This is a sensitive issue, especially for those most directly affected by the attack at Ground Zero, and I trust that those in the area are in the best position to find a solution,” Sutton told the newspaper.

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