By Marc Kovac
Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and his Republican challenger, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, called each other extremists Thursday night for their respective positions on abortion.
Mandel offered a pro-life position, with exceptions only in cases where the health of the mother is at risk.
“This is an issue that I know is a very divisive issue,” he said. “And I know it’s an issue where people are very passionate on both sides. I respect that. While I am pro-life, I respect that people have different positions on this issue.”
Brown offered the pro-choice position, saying women should be allowed to make such decisions.
“I will always trust Ohio women to make their health-care decisions, pure and simple,” he said.
The tone was decidedly different from a national debate this week on the issue, after Republican Richard Mourdock, a Republican from Indiana running for U.S. Senate, said it was “something that God intended to happen” when pregnancies result from rapes.
Mourdock has since said his comments were taken out of context and did not fully explain his position on the issue.
Mandel was asked about Mourdock’s statement during a campaign stop in Columbus on Wednesday. He declined to comment at that time, saying he hadn’t heard the debate or the resulting comments.
On Thursday, Mandel was asked about a questionnaire he signed stating his opposition to abortions in cases of rape and incest.
He said the two sides of the debate should work together to improve adoption laws and ensure public funding is not used for abortions.
“Sherrod Brown is an extremist on this issue,” he said. “He actually supports using your tax dollars to fund abortions.”
Brown countered, “Unlike Josh Mandel, I trust Ohio women to make their own decisions about their health care. Period. And my opponent has the most extreme position.”
The debate Thursday night was the third and last in a series of heated exchanges between Mandel and Brown. Both candidates mostly tread familiar ground Thursday, with sometimes-punchy exchanges between the two.
Brown said he would continue to fight for the middle class, using the auto bailout as an example of how he helped protect Ohio jobs.
Mandel chastised Brown, outlining the results of the economic downturn of recent years and offering a jobs plan of his own that he said would bring prosperity to Ohio and the nation.
Other issues covered Thursday night included:
Both candidates were asked whether they would support raising the eligibility age for Social Security or Medicare.
Brown said he does not support raising the retirement age for eligibility in both programs.
Mandel said he would not support changes for older residents — he mentioned Baby Boomers and seniors citizens specifically — but would be open to changers for younger residents who are years from retirement age.
“We have to make changes, and I think one of the things we should celebrate in this country is people are living longer,” Mandel said.
Mandel was asked whether he would support a different government assistance program for the auto industry.
“There’s no government bailout that I can think of that I would ever support,” he said, adding, “I will not take your tax dollars as U.S. Senator and use them to bail out Wall Street and large corporations.”
Brown said without the federal auto rescue, Ohio’s industry would have fallen apart.
“I wonder what you would have done to help the middle class in this state,” he said.
The candidates were asked to name two areas of common ground.
Mandel said he would stop providing federal funds to countries that are known to harbor terrorists. He also mentioned energy exploration, saying he supports the “responsible exploration” of coal, oil and gas. Mandel also said he would work with Senate Democrats on both issues, though he acknowledged that Brown didn’t see eye to eye with him on them.
Brown said he has been able to work with Republicans on policy issues, whether related to agriculture, bus safety or China currency manipulation.