U.S. Senate candidates Jim Renacci and Sherrod Brown squared off in their first debate Sunday night, a one-hour event in which Renacci cast his opponent as “too in love with Washington and Chuck Schumer” to represent the people of Ohio.
After 25 years in Washington, Renacci said Brown had lost touch with Ohioans and Ohio values on issues like sanctuary cities, Second Amendment rights, how to grow Ohio’s economy and control illegal immigration.
This debate, held in Cleveland, was the first of three this month between the two leading up to the Nov. 6 election. The men traded barbs all night long.
Renacci, an accountant from Wadsworth, is the GOP congressman representing Ohio’s 16th district. Brown is a career office-holder, having served as Ohio secretary of state, in the Ohio legislature, in the U.S. House and now is seeking his third term in the U.S. Senate.
Renacci said that’s far too long for anyone to be in Washington, let alone Brown, “who votes 97 percent of the time with Chuck Schumer.”
Renacci said Brown once favored term limits.
“In 1997 there was a congressman supporting the idea of term limits. That congressman was Sherrod brown,” Renacci said. “He supported the idea for term limits then, but today, he’s been there for 25 years and wants to be there for 30. He’s the fourth most liberal member of the entire Senate, that’s not Ohio and that’s not Ohio values. I want to be able to grow this economy, just like we’re doing now with 4.3 percent growth.”
Renacci pointed out that Brown voted against the Trump tax cuts, calling them a “scam,” even though they’ve benefited middle-class families.
“He tried to bankrupt the coal industry, he voted for sanctuary cities, all things Ohioans would not support,” Renacci said.
On the environment
The two also clashed over energy and the environment.
Brown made a pitch for climate change, which he called “perhaps the greatest moral issue of our time.” and said Ohio must focus on developing alternative energies like wind and solar.
“We never should have pulled out of the Paris climate deal,” Brown said, adding that subsidies for coal should be eliminated but subsidies for solar are apparently just fine.
“I support clean water, a clean environment, clean air,” Renacci said. “But the problem with Senator Brown is he’s more concerned about other states and Washington, D.C., than this state.”
“At the same time solar and wind are important but you can’t just walk away from coal,” Renacci continued. “It’s an asset and it’s here in Ohio. You eliminate coal and natural gas like the senator would like to do, and then energy bills are going to go up. Let’s be sure we’re voting with Ohioans.”
Again, Renacci linked Brown to Schumer, the Senate minority leader.
“Senator Brown supports the Waters for the U.S. bill, a terrible bill that hurts farmers. And he supports a bill taxing land willed to children, which would hurt family farms. Senator Brown votes for whatever Chuck Schumer tells him to.”
Renacci rebuked his opponent for voting in favor of the bank bailout bill under President Obama.
“He voted for the bailouts of the banks, and today he’s one of the leading receivers of money from lobbyists including the banks… He’s been in Washington too long, and he thinks he hasn’t been there and he acts like he hasn’t been there.”
The two candidates were also asked about immigration raids in Ohio this summer.
Brown said deportation should not be a priority, and when it is done it should focus on criminal aliens, not hard-working migrants who are active in their churches and communities.
“The problem is, this government doesn’t go after the law breakers,” Brown said. “And the worst of this issue is the snatching of children from their parents. My opponent is friends with President Trump. What’s he doing in his conversations with President Trump?”
Brown’s comments on immigration were not entirely accurate, though.
First, the Trump administration has placed a priority on illegal aliens who have committed crimes.
Secondly, even if it were true that deportations were being carried out across the board, Brown fails to recognize that crossing the border without documentation and overstaying one’s visa are in themselves a crime.
And, thirdly, the policy of separating children from their parents at the border was carried out under the Obama administration as well.
“One thing I think the senator seems to forget about,” Renacci said. “His party was in charge for years, they had the presidency and the House, and they didn’t fix the [immigration] problem. There is a reason why it’s called illegal immigration. This is not fair to folks I have talked to like Sandy who are working through the system to become legal immigrants. It’s frustrating when I hear Brown talk about President Trump when he’s been in Washington for 25 years, part of the system all that time.”
‘I believed Dr. Ford’
The two were also sharply divided over the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was subjected to an 11th hour accusation of sexual assault from 36 years ago that had no corroborating evidence or witnesses.
“I believed Dr. Ford, I think there’s no question she’s telling the truth,” said Brown, adding that he didn’t like Kavanaugh’s rulings, which he considered too much in favor of corporations and drug companies.
Renacci described the hearings as a “low point” for the senate and “a hypocrisy.”
“There was a decision to try to tear down a good man, and he also gave a very compelling speech. They both did,” Renacci said. “If you’re going to start looking at unsubstantiated claims then you better look at substantiated claims. And my opponent has volumes of substantiated claims sitting at the courthouse [regarding spousal abuse of his former wife]. That is a standard senator Brown has violated.”
For pointing out that truth, Brown looked at Renacci and said “you should be ashamed of yourself.” Why? Because Brown’s wife has since forgiven him for abusing her and now supports his political career.
Watch the debate:
The Ohio Debate Commission sponsored Sunday’s debate. The next debate will be Oct. 20 in Columbus followed by the final debate Oct 26 at Playhouse Square on the campus of Miami University.
Mandi Merritt, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said she was impressed with Renacci’s performance in the first debate.
“During tonight’s Ohio U.S. Senate debate, Jim Renacci showed Ohioans that he’s ready to go to work and help President Trump advance his agenda while Sherrod Brown showed he’ll continue to obstruct the President’s agenda every step of the way. Brown has voted to protect sanctuary cities, he’s voted against middle-class tax relief, and he voted against confirming Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Brown hasn’t just opposed President Trump at every move, but he’s also left his Ohio values in the rear-view mirror after spending over two decades in Washington — and that is exactly why he’ll be voted out of office in November.”
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.