Democrats running for U.S. Senate debate about corporate contributions, filibuster and taxes on wealthy

Mon., Mar. 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; From left, Debatę moderator Curtis Jackson of Spectrum News, and Ohio U.S. Senate Democratic candidates Traci "TJ" Johnson, Morgan Harper and Rep. Tim Ryan begin during the U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

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Mon., Mar. 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; From left, Debatę moderator Curtis Jackson of Spectrum News, and Ohio U.S. Senate Democratic candidates Traci "TJ" Johnson, Morgan Harper and Rep. Tim Ryan begin during the U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan was criticized Monday by one of his U.S. Senate opponents for taking corporate PAC campaign contributions, but he said he fights for workers and policies that help them.

“We can figure out waste, fraud and abuse. We can be judicious in how we use our military,” said Ryan, D-Howland Twp. in Trumbull County. “But 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.”

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Mon., Mar. 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) delivers his closing statement during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

Mon., Mar. 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) delivers his closing statement during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

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Mon., Mar. 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) delivers his closing statement during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

The comments came during the the first of two U.S. Senate candidate debates on Monday sponsored by the Ohio Debate Commission and held at Central State University in Greene County. Curtis Jackson, anchor at Spectrum News, moderated the debate.

Democrats Morgan Harper a Columbus attorney, and businesswoman Traci “TJ” Johnson of Hilliard joined Ryan on stage during the hour-long debate.

The debate, held the university’s Paul Robeson Cultural and Performing Arts Center in Wilberforce, was broadcast live from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. You can watch the debate here:

Harper equated corporate campaign contributions with “bribes” and said she will not accept money from corporate political action committees, including the defense industry.

Harper said she worked at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during the Obama Administration and “witnessed that we could have been doing even more if we had members of Congress that are always on the side of working people. But instead, I observed that special interests have infiltrated that place and have sometimes slowed progress.”

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Mon., Mar. 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Morgan Harper addresses Rep. Tim Ryan, (D-OH), during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

Mon., Mar. 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Morgan Harper addresses Rep. Tim Ryan, (D-OH), during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

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Mon., Mar. 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Morgan Harper addresses Rep. Tim Ryan, (D-OH), during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

Ryan did not directly address her comment about campaign contributions being bribes but said he stands up for workers across the state, and that includes supporting the companies that employ them.

Ryan said he opposed all free trade agreements, except for the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, fought tax cuts for the wealthy, helped pass the Affordable Care Act, supported forming the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and last year voted for the bipartisan infrastructure act that he said will create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“Tim Ryan is not beholden to anyone; he is unequivocally on the side of Ohio workers,” said Izzy Levy, spokeswoman for the Ryan campaign after the debate. “That’s who he’s always answered to and who he’ll keep fighting for in the U.S. Senate.”

Harper, Jordan and Ryan agreed on several points, including that the U.S. should help Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid and that President Joe Biden should come to Congress for authorization before bringing the U.S. into a military confrontation with Russia under NATO Article 5. They also support passing voting rights legislation and reforming the filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most legislation to move forward in the U.S. Senate.

Throughout history the filibuster “has been used to block anti-lynching, fair employment and civil rights for African Americans,” Johnson said.

Ryan said the need for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is clear, especially as Ohio Republicans have repeatedly drawn new state legislative and Congressional district maps that give them a lopsided majority and were determined to be unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Voting rights are “about allowing the voters to pick you,” Ryan said.

Harper called for cancelling all federal and private student loan debt, while Ryan said people should be able to renegotiate their interest rates on both types of student loans.

Harper also said current high gas prices should be addressed by repealing the federal gas tax and that the government needs to address windfall profits she said the fossil fuel industry is getting during the current global crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She said moving to more renewable resources would give the country more energy independence and create jobs.

Johnson supports action to lower prescription drug costs and widening access to affordable health care. Harper wants Medicare expanded to everyone, and said she would pay for it by closing tax loopholes for multinational corporations.

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Mon., Mar. 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Traci "TJ" Johnson answers a question during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

Mon., Mar. 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Traci "TJ" Johnson answers a question during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

Combined ShapeCaption
Mon., Mar. 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Traci "TJ" Johnson answers a question during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com

Johnson also said, “We have to get guns off the street. Because they are killing our children. They are killing our family members.”

Ryan said increasing taxes on the wealthy could cover paid family leave, support for child care and universal preschool, an expanded child tax credit and expanding Medicare so the elderly can get coverage for hearing aids, dental coverage and glasses. He said investing in the country will help the U.S. beat China.

The three differed on reform of the U.S. Supreme Court, with Harper and Johnson favoring adding justices and Ryan opposing it.

After the debate an Ohio Republican Party spokesman focused on Ryan and Harper’s comments.

“Tim Ryan is no moderate, and there is zero light between his and Morgan Harper’s far-left agendas,” said Dan Lusheck, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party. “A vote for either of them is a vote for Joe Biden’s failed policies, causing record inflation, skyrocketing energy prices, and the rapid decline of the United States’ leadership on the world stage.”

The seven Republican candidates for U.S. Senate also agreed to a debate and that will occur tonight at Central State from 7 to 8:30 p.m. That debate can be watched here:

The Republican primary candidates are: State Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls; Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons; former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel of Beachwood; businessman Neil Patel of Westerville; businessman Mark Pukita of Dublin; former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken of Canton; and author and businessman J.D. Vance of Cincinnati.

The Republican debate will be moderated by Karen Kasler, bureau chief of the Statehouse News Bureau.

The 10 candidates are vying to replace U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who announced he will not seek a third term.

On Tuesday night the two Democratic Party candidates for governor, former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, will face off from 7 to 8 p.m. at Central State.

Lucy May, host of Cincinnati Edition on WVXU-91.7, will moderate.

The Republican gubernatorial debate was cancelled after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declined to participate. The other Republican candidates for governor are Joe Blystone, Ron Hood and former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci.

The Ohio Debate Commission is a collaboration of media outlets, civic organizations and universities in Ohio. Its mission is to produce “fair and substantive debates that encourage participation in our democracy,” according to the commission.

“We’ve been planning since mid-2021 for these debates and Central State is ready to play its role in providing meaningful information to voters,” said Zillah Fluker, vice president of CSU’s division of institutional advancement.

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