By Marc Kovac
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said his Republican opponent has “fallen far short on the honesty and integrity quotient.”
GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel called the incumbent a liar who represents everything that’s wrong in Washington.
And then things got ugly.
“Josh Mandel, as we know, has trouble telling the truth,” Brown said. “We just can’t trust Josh Mandel to tell the truth. We can’t trust Josh Mandel to do his job. We just can’t trust Josh Mandel to show up for work. We can’t trust Josh Mandel not to hire his cronies. ...”
Mandel responded, “The senator was just asked about bipartisanship. And instead of answering the question, he went on the attack on me. ... He did not offer one bipartisan proposal.”
Both candidates offered pointed comments during the second of three debates Thursday in Columbus in what has become one of the most heated statewide races in Ohio.
They covered familiar territory, with Mandel trying to paint Brown as a Washington insider who has been in office too long and Brown casting Mandel as a dishonest opportunist with his eye on the next political office.
They were asked about trade and tax policies, the federal auto bailout, “Obamacare” and other issues that have been common themes throughout the campaign. Here’s some of what they said:
Both were asked to outline specific ideas for reviving the state and national economy. Mandel said he supports simplifying tax codes for families and businesses, increasing exploration for oil and gas in a responsible way and stopping Wall Street bank bailouts.
“It was fiscally irresponsible, it was morally wrong,” Mandel said of the federal bailouts.
Brown said he supports enforcing trade laws, ending tax breaks for companies moving overseas and the federal bailout of the automobile industry, all of which have helped to decrease unemployment rates.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Brown said.
The federal auto bailout remained front and center throughout the night, with Mandel reiterating his position that the rescue package hurt Delphi retirees and automobile salesmen and mechanics.
“I believe we need better regulatory policy, better energy policy, better tax policy in Washington to ensure that our manufacturers — auto manufacturers and other manufacturers here in the state of Ohio — can compete and grow and succeed in the global marketplace against companies in China and India and Russia,” he said. “Unfortunately, because of bad regulatory policy, bad tax policy, bad energy policy, Sherrod Brown and other career politicians in Washington put our auto jobs at risk here. He created the problem and now he’s trying to take credit for solving it.”
Brown responded by listing vehicles that are made entirely in Ohio and the position those automakers and suppliers would be in without federal assistance.
Both candidates were asked about their support or opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act and what they would do to change it.
Mandel reiterated his opposition, saying he would push to eliminate junk lawsuits against health care providers, restore funding for Medicare and enable people to purchase health insurance across state lines, all of which would help bring costs down for consumers.
“We don’t want government-run health care,” Mandel said.
Brown reiterated his support for the health care act, saying he was proud that he voted for it. He said the law ensures free checkups and hundreds of dollars in prescription drug savings for Ohio seniors.
“I know a lot of families who have a diabetic or asthmatic child,” Brown said. “Because of the strong consumer protections in this bill, they can’t lose their insurance.”
Both candidates were asked if they supported the end of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the U.S. military or a proposed constitutional amendment legalizing gay marriage in the state.
Brown said he supported both.
Mandel said he did not, but added that he would represent all Ohioans if elected.
“I’m a supporter of marriage between one man and one woman, I believe in traditional marriage,” he said, adding later, “I’m going to be blind to race, religion, any other type of orientation. ...”