Asked a half dozen times using different scenarios, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, wouldn’t give a yes-or-no answer as to whether he supports the $82 billion federal government bailout of the American auto industry.
During a Wednesday editorial board meeting with The Vindicator, Mandel was repeatedly asked the question.
Each time, Mandel either said it was wrong for the bailout to not help Delphi salaried retirees — who lost their health and life insurance and had their pensions cut by 30 percent to 70 percent — or dismissed various scenarios offered by the editorial board’s members as not being legitimate questions.
Mandel, of Lyndhurst, is challenging U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Democrat incumbent who lives in Avon, for the U.S. Senate seat in this election.
The 2009 auto bailout, strongly supported by Brown, is a major economic issue in Ohio, which counts the auto industry as one of its main manufacturing businesses.
Mandel said he “personally would have had a very real problem” with stripping Delphi retirees of their pensions and benefits.
“I am angry and I feel terrible that politicians like Sherrod Brown and others supported a process that stripped hard-working retirees in the Youngstown area of their pensions,” he said.
Mandel is referring to about 21,000 Delphi salaried retirees, including 1,500 in the Mahoning Valley, who lost their health and life insurance and had their pensions cut by 30 percent to 70 percent when Delphi went bankrupt in 2009. Delphi hourly retirees who were members of the United Auto Workers were fully covered by General Motors, which received a bailout from the federal government that year.
Mandel was asked: In light of the impact the auto rescue has had, does he support it.
“I would do anything in the U.S. Senate I could to protect auto jobs,” he said. “But it needs to be under the umbrella of the free-enterprise system without the federal government picking winners and losers.”
Brown told the newspaper’s editorial board Monday that he supported the auto rescue and the industry would have been devastated without it.
Also, Brown said he supports the Delphi retirees, and introduced legislation last month to transfer money from the sale of government stock in GM to supplement benefits lost or reduced by the retirees.
“Nobody won fully during the rescue, but we kept these communities” that depend on the auto industry “from really getting hurt,” Brown said.
At the end of his interview, Mandel was asked about an incident Friday involving a person, working for the American Bridge 21st Century political action committee, videotaping him in an elevator. The video shows Mandel approaching the political tracker. A reporter for The Dispatch newspaper in Columbus was in the elevator and reported that Mandel also grabbed a monopod attached to the video camera.
At a Columbus press conference Tuesday, Mandel said the tracker “made initial physical contact with me.” The Dispatch reported Mandel’s statement isn’t supported by eyewitness accounts or the video.
On Wednesday, Mandel dismissed it as “old news.”