While it was freezing cold outside in Columbus last Thursday evening, it was piping hot inside the debate I moderated between primary candidates for U.S. Senator from Ohio, Democrat Morgan Harper and Republican Josh Mandel.
Ohio will have primary elections in May, where each party will vote for their candidate to fill the Senate seat left open after two-term Republican Rob Portman announced he would not be seeking re-election.
It's atypical to have candidates from different parties debate before the primary elections, but Harper said she decided it was the best option after Ryan declined to participate in a debate.
"I've invited my primary opponent, Tim Ryan, to debate me but so far he has refused," Harper wrote in a press release for the debate. "Ohioans who care about our state's future have no time to wait. In the meantime, I'm ready and willing to take on the Republicans in this race."
Democratic primary voters will choose between the U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan, consumer protection attorney and community organizer Morgan Harper, tech executive Traci Johnson, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Tinsley LaShondra.
Ryan had $5M in his campaign coffers going into 2022, which is 10 times more than Harper's $436,800. Harper has vowed not to take donations from corporate political action committees or PACs.
Former Ohio Treasurer and Republican Josh Mandel has participated in several debates across the state in recent months, but they've all been against his primary opponents which include author JD Vance, investment banker Mike Gibbons, Senator Matt Dolan, former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken, entrepreneur Bernie Moreno, businessman Neil Patel, Bill Graham and Mark Pukita.
There have been several polls done on the Republican field sponsored by the campaigns themselves, with varying results. Republican candidates in this race contributed a combined $29M of their own money into their own campaigns in 2021, but Mandel was not one of them.
In the debate press release, Mandel said, “I’m not afraid to take on anyone from either party on any issue. I’m looking forward to debating Morgan Harper, a leading Democrat contender for Senate, to compare and contrast our visions for Ohio and where we stand on the issues.”
The event was held at North Columbus Baptist Church, where my co-moderator Dan Wolvin of Awake America serves as pastor. About 50 attendees and press attended in-person, and Matter's live-streams garnered over 3,340 views during the event. (The recording is available on our Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts.)
Over 80 people submitted questions for the candidates. In total, we asked 20 questions covering a wide range of topics including immigration, healthcare, abortion, gun violence, transgender rights, voting rights and government corruption. Because of Matter's focus on Columbus development and policing, we also asked audience questions about equitable economic development, affordable housing and qualified immunity for police officers. The only topic the candidates shared common ground on was their support for cryptocurrency.