After months of on-the-ground campaigning and a largely negative ad war, Ohio’s U.S. Senate candidates appeared face to face for the first of three scheduled debates. this month. Brown, an incumbent Democrat running for a second term, is fending off a challenge from Republican Josh Mandel, who is two years into his first term as State Treasurer. The debate, held in downtown Cleveland, was contentious, and the candidates’ disdain for each other was on display. ideastream’s Bill Rice reports.
The City Club match-up between Mandel and Brown in many ways echoed the ad campaign being waged over the airwaves. The similarity was perhaps amplified by the format – 60 second answers to questions from journalists and the audience, and 30 second rebuttals.
In his opening statement, Brown talked up his fight to bolster the middle class. Mandel told the crowd that Washington is broken and that career politicians are at fault.
After that – the gloves came off. Brown pointed to endorsements he’s received from Newspapers including the Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal and Youngstown Vindicator.
Brown: These papers don’t trust Mandel because he hires cronies to do his job, to try to do his job as state Treasurer. They don’t trust him because he believes in the same trickle down economics that got us into this situation in the beginning.
Mandel said its Brown who can’t be trusted
Mandel: Six years ago on this stage in Ohio, he lambasted his own opponent for higher unemployment rates – today, unemployment higher. Six years ago he lambasted his opponent for hyper-partisanship, voting for president bush 96 percent of the time. He voted with president Obama 95 percent of the time. Six years ago he lambasted his opponent for not ppassing a budget. He hasn’t even passed a budget in over three years.
Mandel came well armed with barbs and didn’t hold back, blaming Brown for just about everything that’s gone wrong with the economy.
Mandel: He claims he’s fighting for the middle class. Yet in his time in Washington, unemployment- up. Gas prices - up. Tuition – up, Foreclosure rates – up. Health care costs – up. Senator, that’s quite a record.
Mandel was asked to clarify whether he would have supported the federal bailouts of GM and Chrysler if her were in office in 2008. He seemed to say…for the first time, by the way, that he would NOT have voted for the federal loans.
Mandel: I will do everything I can to support manufacturing, but I’m not a bailout Senator. He’s a bailout senator. Bailed out Wall Street, bailed out Fannie and Freddie, and large corporations.
Brown was incredulous.
Brown 3 That you would be so out of step with Senator Voinovich and Congressman LaTourette, with senators and congressmenen all ove the Midwest, to vote against the auto rescue just boggles my mind.
Plain Dealer reporter Henry Gomez raised one of the criticisms some have made of him, alleging he staffed the Ohio Treasurer’s office with political allies Mandel’s response drew snickers from Brown supporters in the audience.
Mandel: The folks we have hired into our office are qualified professionals. And I believe their record speaks for themselves. (Jeers ) Let’s talk about the record."
Mandel talked about Ohio’s triple-A bond rating. Brown came back, again invoking his endorsements from newspapers and how they don’t trust Mandel.
In answer to a question about the health and safety of the burgeoning natural gas industry in Ohio, including fracking, Brown veered a bit after saying…to pick between jobs and a good environment is a false choice. Mandel glared and then called Brown’s answer “Washington speak.”
The Senate candidates have agreed to two more debates later this month.