Ohio U.S. Senate candidates clash over taxes, bailout, healthcare in acrimonious debate


COLUMBUS — The two candidates for an Ohio U.S. Senate seat today flatly called each other a liar in an acrimonious debate in which they clashed over taxes, the taxpayer bailout of the auto industry, and health care.

Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown accused Republican Josh Mandel of gving up the right to make tough future decisions by signing an anti-tax hike pledge and neglecting his new job as state treasurer to run for his next office.

Mr. Mandel, in turn, repeatedly accused Mr. Brown of “Washington-speak'' and being part of the atmosphere in the nation's capital that created the problems he now claims to be solving.

“Senator, you are a liar,'' Mr. Mandel said. “You are lying to the people of the state of Ohio. You are falsely attacking me. I won't stand for it. You might want to try to push people around in Washington, but you're not going to push me around.''

Countered Brown: “Being called a liar, a liar, by the winner of the pants [on fire crown] is just a pretty remarkable thing for a young man to say or for a man of any age to say in political debate...He kind of wins this crown over and over.''

The Ohio race pits a veteran liberal Democrat who has spent nearly two decades in Washington against a rapidly rising conservative Republican on the state stage. This Ohio fight is set against the larger battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

The Blade-Ohio Newspaper Organization debate in Columbus continued the acrimony between the two candidates that has played out in numerous negative TV ads, many financed by out-of-state groups, as well as in Monday’s first debate in Cleveland.

“Josh Mandel signed a pledge to one of the best known fat cat lobbyists in Washington, Grover Norquist, and that pledge first of all was a pledge not to ever think for himself...,'' Mr. Brown said. “It was a pledge that basically said he will never close loopholes on oil companies and he'll never close the loophole on companies shutting down in Ohio and moving overseas to China.''

Mr. Mandel argued that during Mr. Brown's tenure in Washington, unemployment, gas prices, health-care costs, and foreclosure rates are all up.

“Sen. Brown, that's quite a record,'' he said. “Sen. Brown says one thing in Ohio and does another in Washington.

“Here in Ohio he likes to rail against Wall Street banks, but in Washington he voted for the largest Wall Street bank bailout in history. Here in Washington he likes to rail against China, but in Washington he borrowed a trillion dollars from China on the backs of your kids and grandkids...We can't change Washington by sending Sherrod Brown back there.''

Mr. Brown, 59, a former Ohio secretary of state and state representative from Avon, has been in Congress since 1993, nearly six of those in the U.S. Senate. He is seeking a second term in the upper chamber.

Mr. Mandel, 35, is a former state representative and Lyndhurst city councilman who was elected state treasurer in 2010. He launched his Senate campaign soon after taking office.

The two repeatedly clashed over the $800 billion taxpayer bailout of the auto industry. Mr. Brown supported it, citing work with Republican President George W. Bush and his Democratic successor Barack Obama to make it happen.

Mr. Mandel opposes it.

“On the auto rescue, to call that Washington-speak is a bit peculiar because it kept tens of thousands of Ohioans at work,'' Mr. Brown said. “Josh Mandel's view of politics and economics: tax cuts for the wealthy, hoping it trickles down. Mine is to focus on the middle class and build the economy out from the middle class.''

Mr. Mandel, who opposes the bailout, blamed Mr. Brown for contributing to the problem in the first place.

“I'm not going to be a bailout senator,'' he said “ Sherrod Brown's the bailout senator...I believe we need better regulatory policy, better energy policy, better tax policy in Washington to ensure that auto manufacturers and other manufacturers here in the state of Ohio can compete and grow in the global marketplace against companies in China, India, and Russia.

“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,'' Mr. Mandel said.

The final debate, sponsored by Ohio’s NBC affiliates and AARP, will take place Oct. 25 in Cincinnati.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.