Democrats square off

Senate hopefuls spar in only debate

U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Rep. Tim Ryan, right, answers a question as Morgan Harper, left, listens during Ohio's U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate on Monday, March 28, 2022 at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. (Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, Pool)

The three Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, including Congressman Tim Ryan, squared off in a relatively low-key debate, addressing issues including Ukraine, the possible expansion of the Supreme Court and the elimination of the filibuster.

Morgan Harper, an attorney and community organizer, criticized Ryan, D-Howland, during Monday’s debate over taking political donations from special interest groups. Ryan, a 10-term U.S. House member, responded to Harper’s statements, but didn’t go after her.

Traci TJ Johnson, an IT business owner, didn’t go after either of her opponents and struggled at times to keep her train of thought, admitting “cameras intimidate me.”

This is the only debate in which the three Democratic candidates will participate.

The three will be a part of an April 21 virtual town hall event sponsored by the Ohio Young Democrats and the Ohio Young Black Democrats.

Harper has asked for numerous debates, but Ryan, who is considered the front-runner on the Democratic side, agreed to the town hall and Monday’s debate at Central State University, organized by the Ohio Debate Commission.

During Monday’s debate, Harper said Ryan took more than $400,000 from defense contractors during his more than 19 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Ohio is a state with tens of thousands of jobs connected to the defense industry — good-paying, union jobs in Ohio,” Ryan said.

Harper said that equates to “having to take money, which are really bribes, from corporations that are only enriching defense contractors not here at home, but actually in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and those executives become very rich as a cost of keeping them in business in our state, wow, wow. (It’s a) real misunderstanding of what leadership should be and what it takes to have good economic development for the state of Ohio.”

Ryan responded that, for example, there are more than 1,000 workers at the Lima Army Tank Plant and “dozens and dozens” of supply companies nearby — and those people live in Ohio.

“I will always go to bat for them,” he said.

Ryan added: “I will always be on the side of workers. Just because they work in the defense industry doesn’t mean I’m going to turn my back on them. I’m going to fight for them, too.”

Asked about Ukraine and Russia’s invasion of that country, Ryan said if a NATO ally is attacked in that war, he would support the authorization of U.S. military force.

He called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a butcher. He’s a killer. He’s a war criminal, and he’s slaughtering innocent people.”

Johnson said Putin “isn’t a dangerous man. He’s a strategic man. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”

In the scenario of a NATO ally attacked in the Ukraine war, Harper said she would be “willing to consider it.”

Harper called for the expansion of the U.S. Supreme Court and the elimination of the filibuster. A filibuster is a political procedure in which one or more members of a legislative body prolong debate on proposed legislation so as to delay or entirely prevent decision.

Ryan said he’s not in favor of “stacking the court,” but wants to get “rid of the filibuster.”

Johnson said when it comes to expanding the court “we need to tread lightly because if we expand the court as Democrats, then when Republicans come in they’ll expand the court and then the court will lose its power.”



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