Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) may have a 3-to-1 funding advantage over his opponent for re-election to a third term in the U.S. Senate.
But in the third and final debate with Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) Friday night at Miami University, the two seemed evenly matched.
Renacci, the son of a railroad worker and a nurse, said he was taught that anything is possible in America through hard work.
“At 24 I started my first business and went on to create over 1,500 jobs. My opponent went to Yale and when he graduated he went right into politics,” he said.
Forty years later, Brown is still in politics, and Renacci says it’s time for a change because Brown has become addicted to Washington-lobbyist cash, scooping up $27 million for his campaigns over the years.
Instead of putting Washington first, Renacci pledged to put Ohio and Ohioans first. And that starts with immigration.
The two candidates have completely different views of the 15,000-person migrant caravan marching toward the U.S.-Mexican border from Central America. President Trump announced Friday he will send 800 to 1,000 troops to assist border patrol in protecting the border.
“Here’s a perfect example of where I’m going to listen to Ohioans and Ohio first,” Renacci said.
Without a wall, the caravans will just keep coming, he added, likening the caravan of illegals to an invasion as opposed to orderly immigration.
“I say we do need a wall to make sure our immigration system works, and my opponent says we get rid of ICE and he supports sanctuary cities and open borders,” Renacci continued, saying that “to come in an invasion-type situation, that’s not the way to do it.”
Brown, on the other hand, said nothing about the caravan and whether it should be stopped or allowed to cross into the U.S., but did try to paint himself as a border hawk.
“I take a back seat to nobody for secure borders,” Brown said. “But I believe we can protect our border without tearing children from their families.”
“If you take a back seat to no one I want to know who’s driving that car, because it’s not Ohioans, and it may be illegal aliens,” Renacci responded.
Watch the entire debate here:
Brown calls Trump ‘divisive’
While discussing the recent bomb threats against several prominent Democrats, Brown thanked the police and postal workers who handled the case, quoting President Ronald Reagan in saying that “our strength comes from our ability to welcome those from other lands.”
Instead of being a leader who unities the country, like former presidents, Brown said Trump was a divider.
“I don’t blame the president for this but I do think the president’s rhetoric is divisive,” Brown said, calling on Renacci to join him in asking the president to tone down his rhetoric.
When it comes to restoring civility in politics, Renacci said he has been one of the most bipartisan congressmen in Washington, starting a bipartisan breakfast that has led to 15 bills being passed in the House.
“Breakfasts are good but let’s see what you do,” Brown responded. “But these are bombs, these are attempted assassinations. There’s too many people shouting ‘lock her up’ at rallies and I wish Congressman Renacci would join me in helping to do this [call for civility].”
Disagreements on healthcare
The two candidates sparred over questions about Medicare funds possibly running dry within a few years.
“Take the $16 million taken for the Affordable Care Act and put it back into Medicare,” Renacci suggested. “Number two, make sure everything is on the table, and number three, we need to quit this political rhetoric [about Republicans wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare].”
Renacci said Brown’s plan to expand Medicare for all would cost $32 trillion.
“In the end that would mean we double our taxes. We need to make sure we’re working for Ohioans first,” he explained.
But Brown, like in previous debates, continued to accuse Renacci of secretly planning to rob Medicare to pay for the tax cuts that have brought jobs and wage increases to Ohio workers. He also accused Renacci of secretly desiring to eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions.
“We need to deal with the costs for sure, and that means going after the issue of pre-existing conditions, not letting Mitch McConnell and the White House to strip that protection,” Brown said. “But here’s what you don’t do; you don’t give tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent, and then have Mitch McConnell saying we will pay for that by cutting services and raising the eligibility age. You go after the middle class to pay for the cuts to the rich people. That’s both bad economics and immoral.”
“The senator went on the attack instead of addressing the issue,” Renacci replied. “There is no one in Washington who wants to hurt seniors. And the tax cut is actually helping everyone, not just rich people.”
Renacci accused Brown of fear-mongering for votes and pretending that Obamacare is a viable answer for everyone’s healthcare needs.
“The mother with children can barely afford to pay the premiums [for Obamacare]. They’ve gone up 132 percent since Obamacare was implemented,” Renacci claimed. “So I did vote to repeal and replace, but it also means we keep the pre-existing condition coverage, we keep the caps, and we can’t just say the only way is the Affordable Care Act.
Brown’s alleged ‘double standard’ on Me Too Movement
The two men were also asked about the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whom Brown opposed, saying that he and fellow Democrats “could get very little information about him.”
“I thought we should have done more investigation into his background,” Brown said. “It was a partisan spectacle where Republican leadership jammed that nomination through, and it was a bit of an embarrassment to the Senate.”
Renacci responded by accusing Brown of having a “double standard,” attacking him for allegedly assaulting women.
“If you’re going to set that standard of conduct you better set it upon yourself,” he said. “No man should ever raise his hand to a woman, and forgiveness doesn’t erase facts. You have court documents in this case to prove [the physical abuse], so he does not get grandfathered in.”
Brown, as he did in previous debates, said Renacci “should be ashamed of yourself” for bringing up the issue of spousal abuse in Brown’s first marriage.
Opposites on gun control
The two candidates also showed once again that they are polar opposites on the issue of gun control.
Brown wants to ban all rifles he defines as “assault weapons,” without clarifying which weapons currently on the market he would like to see banned, and expressed support for “universal” background checks. He called such proposals “simple, common-sense gun measures.”
“I’ve taken the time to talk to police officers, teachers, parents and we don’t want to take guns away from law-abiding citizens, but we do need to be looking at mental health,” Renacci responded. “I’m thinking about Ohioans first, and my opponent has collected over 27 million dollars from all of these lobbyists and that’s the big difference.”
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.