WASHINGTON — Sen. Rob Portman sharply criticized Senate Democrats Monday for waiting “until the 11th hour” to make public an accusation by a woman that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at party when both were in high school three decades ago.

 

Portman, R-Ohio, a close friend of Kavanaugh’s and who introduced the federal appeals judge to the Senate Judiciary Committee this month, complained Monday that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., "has had this information since July but chose not to raise it during the extensive public hearings, private sessions with" the committee and Kavanaugh, "or the dozens of private meetings with senators.”

 

Portman, who spoke by telephone this weekend with Kavanaugh, said he expects the committee “to now thoroughly review the allegation in a way that is fair and respectful to” the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, and Kavanaugh.

 

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who already had announced his opposition to Kavanaugh's nomination, said he agreed with "senators on both sides of the aisle that the judiciary committee should take the time it needs to investigate."

 

Brown’s comments were complicated by a digital video launched last week by GOP-funded group #MeTooOhio, which revived records from Brown’s 1986 divorce.

 

During that divorce, Brown’s ex-wife, Larke Recchie, filed a restraining order against him after an incident in which she accused him of entering her house by shoving her to the side. An affidavit in the divorce reported that on numerous occasions, Brown “intimidated, pushed, shoved and bullied” her.

 

But Recchie put out a statement saying the use of their divorce records for a political campaign was “shameless” and “disgusting.”

 

“Anyone who suggests he is not an honorable man is just wrong,” she said.

 

Senate Republican candidate Jim Renacci said the “allegations against Brett Kavanaugh are serious and should be thoroughly examined, and by the same standard, anyone who calls on Kavanaugh to step aside based on these allegations must also call on Sherrod Brown to resign given the substantial evidence and affidavits detailing with Brown’s history of domestic violence.”

 

Brown’s divorce came up in his 2012 race against Treasurer Josh Mandel and in his 1992 race for the House of Representatives. In 2006, the Brown campaign cut an ad featuring Recchie in an effort to defuse reports about the ugliness of their divorce, with Recchie defending him. They never had to air the ad; then-Sen. Mike DeWine never brought up the allegations during the campaign.

 

Recchie and her husband Joe held fundraisers for Brown in 2006, 2012 and earlier this month, and she and Brown’s current wife, Connie Schultz, have posted pictures on social media of the Recchies and the Brown-Schultz families together with their grandchildren.

 

MeTooOhio, whose spokeswoman Alice Stewart lives in Virginia, named state Rep. Christina Hagan, R-Marlboro Township, as its executive director. Hagan, a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, lost a Republican congressional primary in Northeast Ohio last May to former Ohio State wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez.

 

Last week, Republican Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor called on Brown to resign and this weekend, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken said Brown “has never had to answer questions about his court documented domestic abuse.”

 

But in fact, the Dispatch asked Brown about the incidents in 1989. “I have done nothing wrong,” he said back then, adding “I’ve never hurt her. I’ve never touched her. I never harassed her on the phone.”

 

Said Recchie in 1992: “There was a lot of hurt on both sides, and it led only to angry words.”

jwehrman@dispatch.com

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