Candidates talk gun violence
Photo: AP Photo/John Minchillo
Photo: AP Photo/John Minchillo

Oregon District shooting, guns topic of Democratic debate in Ohio

With Daytonians in the audience of the Democratic presidential debate, candidates advocated for assault weapons bans and buybacks, universal background checks and other measures to reduce the gun violence that has claimed more than 16,000 Ohioans since 2007.

“The public is with us on this in a big way. The majority of Trump voters want to see universal background checks right now. The majority of gun owners want to see us move forward with gun safety legislation,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who said she met with an Oregon District shooting survivor. “I just don’t want to screw this up.”

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts described gun violence as a widespread, complex problem. “It’s not just about mass shootings. It’s what happens in neighborhoods all across this country. It is about suicides. It is about domestic violence. This is not going to be a one and done.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley as well as Blind Bob’s manager Andy Rowe and Oregon District business owner Brittany Smith attended the three hour debate on the campus of Otterbein University in the well-heeled Columbus suburb of Westerville.

On Aug. 4, a 24-year-old gunman killed nine people and shot 27 others in the Oregon District. Dayton police on routine patrol are credited with killing him 32 seconds after his rampage began.

IS OHIO IN PLAY?: GOP tilt working against Democrats

Dayton activist Melissa Rodriguez, a United State Air Force veteran who attended the debate, said among her top concerns is gun control, including red flag laws, background checks and an assault weapons ban.

“I am a veteran. And I definitely believe there should be an assault weapons ban, knowing what these guns can do,” she said, adding that she favors changes proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine.

Related: Gov. DeWine outlines plan to tackle gun violence

“It’s one good step forward,” she said, adding more should be done. “So there is not another Dayton, there is not another El Paso and there is not another Pulse Night Club going forward.”

Even before three-hour debate began, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez highlighted President Trump’s inaction on gun reforms as a prime example of his “broken promises.”

“Folks, all across this state, Ohioans want common sense gun violence reduction measures,” Perez said at a press event in downtown Westerville with Whaley and other Ohio Democrats. “This president, after so many of these incidences, said ‘I think there is a big appetite for dealing with background checks.’ And then he meets with the NRA and suddenly, he gets indigestion and he loses his appetite to do anything.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said she “was pleased” about the conversation on gun violence. Whaley is supporting Mayor Buttigieg.

“Here we are two months after Dayton and it’s still being heavily discussed. I am pleased about that,” she said. 

The Trump campaign said in a written release that President Trump has worked to reduce gun violence while protecting Second Amendment rights by signing into law a bills to: strengthen the existing firearms background check system, allocate $1 billion for grants for schools and law enforcement to prevent violence, and ban bump stock devices.

Gun rights groups generally oppose expanded background checks and red flag laws, which allow for court orders to seize weapons from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. The groups argue that such measures are unconstitutional and ineffective.

Related: Do red flag laws work? Here’s what we found in Indiana

Candidates also covered issues such as health care coverage, taxes on the ultra-wealthy, the impeachment inquiry, new state laws that restrict access to abortion, withdrawal of U.S. troops in northern Syria and foreign relations with America’s allies.

Warren and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former vice president Joe Biden, who are each in their 70s, fielded questions about their age and fitness to serve as president.

The DNC picked Westerville to host the fourth in a series of debates because it illustrates an opportunity for Dems to capture votes in similar trending-blue suburbs.

“The Democratic Party could have chosen Dayton or Youngstown, to signal its interest in winning back blue-collar Trump voters - or, in Dayton’s case, to highlight issues relating to gun violence,” said University of Dayton political science Professor Christopher Devine. “Instead, the Party chose Westerville - just the type of growing, highly-educated suburb where Democrats have been increasing their support since 2016. In that sense, hosting this debate in Westerville to me says more about the importance of the suburban vote than it does about the importance of Ohio.”

The Democrats’ decision to hold the debate in Ohio signals the importance of the state, said Kyle Kondik, author of The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President.

“To be clear, I don’t think where a primary debate is held has any tangible political benefit for a party,” said Kondik, an Ohio native. “That said, the parties do seem to take a state’s importance into account when scheduling these events — all of the debates so far have been held in competitive states, including Ohio. The state is getting harder for Democrats but it’s not unwinnable. And Trump has no path to reelection without it.”

Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Ohio by 8 percentage points in 2016. The last presidential candidate to win the White House without carrying Ohio was John F. Kennedy in 1960.

A newly released national poll of registered voters by Quinnipiac University shows 54 percent disapprove of the job President Trump is doing while 41 percent approve. Voters are split nearly evenly on the question of whether he should be impeached, the poll found.

The poll also showed the Democratic primary race is predominately between Warren and Biden. If the vote were held today, 30 percent say they’d back Warren while 27 percent favor Biden and 11 percent support Sanders, the poll found.

Democrats differ on how to improve jobs picture 

Many Democrats seeking their party's presidential nomination stress a need to improve the nation's jobs picture, but they disagree on how to do that. At Tuesday's debate in Westerville, near Columbus, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders defended his federal jobs guarantee, saying equalizing the economy will create the need for more teachers and doctors. 

Businessman Andrew Yang, who backs a universal basic income, said people "do not want to work for the federal government." Promoting her own plan to boost social security, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said her proposal would cover retirement for even those in nontraditional positions, like stay-at-home caregivers. 

Several, including former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, advocated strengthening unions to keep businesses like GM from moving production to other countries. AP

Candidates talk about impeachment

The 12 Democratic presidential candidates debating in Ohio are unified in saying Congress has no choice but to begin impeachment against President Donald Trump, though not all for the same reasons.  Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren says no one is above the law. Her fellow top contenders, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, called Trump the "most corrupt president" in the course of American history.  

Warren and Sanders said they found the president worthy of impeachment as a result of the Mueller report, which detailed 10 possible instances of obstruction of justice in the investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election.  

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker says it's imperative that Congress' decision on impeachment be "about patriotism and not partisanship." - AP

Supporters of President Trump near the Democratic debate site in Westerville Tuesday. Photo by Whitney Saleski.

Republicans criticize candidates as having ‘socialist agenda’

"Democrats proved tonight that their socialist agenda is too radical for Ohio. From turning a blind eye to our booming economy, to proposing radical policies that would raise taxes, strip Ohioans of their healthcare and kill thousands of jobs across the state, each and every 2020 Democrat would be a disaster for Ohio." said Republican National Committee Spokesperson Mandi Merritt.

President Trump’s campaign manager Brad Perscale also weighed in.

“A dozen Democrats stood on stage tonight and made several things clear. They have always wanted to impeach President Trump, they have always wanted to eliminate employer-provided health insurance, they have always wanted to raise your taxes, and they have always wanted to unravel the hottest economy in modern history. Another thing was also clear: Once again, President Trump was the hands-down winner of this debate,” he said.

Joe Biden supporters in Westerville, Ohio Tuesday night before the Democratic presidential debate. Photo by Whitney Saleski.

Warren dinged for dodging health cost questions

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is taking fire from her Democratic opponents for refusing to answer whether her "Medicare for All" plan would raise taxes for the middle class.

Warren has refused to directly answer when asked how she'd pay for her proposal, and during Tuesday night's presidential debate, she once again dodged, insisting only that "costs will go down" for the middle class. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg knocked Warren for the nonanswer, saying her failure to offer a direct answer is "why people are so frustrated with politicians" and arguing that Medicare for All would "unnecessarily divide this country."

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who wrote the Medicare for All legislation that Warren has embraced, said it was "appropriate to acknowledge taxes will go up." Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar also piled on, saying, "At least Bernie's being honest" and arguing in favor of a public option instead.-AP

Biden says he and son Hunter 'did nothing wrong' 

Joe Biden is defending both his actions and those of his son in dealing with Ukraine. 

At Tuesday night's Democratic debate in Westerville, near Columbus, the former vice president said his son Hunter "did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong." Biden was answering a question about why he has pledged that no members of his family would engage in foreign deals if he were to be elected president while insisting his son's dealings with foreign countries were above board during Biden's vice presidency. 

President Donald Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry over his effort to have Ukraine investigate Biden. 

Biden urged that the focus go back on Trump, saying, "Rudy Giuliani, the president and his thugs have already proven the fact that they are flat lying." -AP

Castro wrong on jobs in Ohio

The Associated Press did a fact check during the debate saying former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro was wrong about Ohio losing jobs.

"Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania actually in the latest jobs data have lost jobs, not gained them, " he said.

Figures from the Labor Department show that the former Housing and Urban Development secretary is wrong.

Ohio added jobs in August. So did Michigan . Same with Pennsylvania .

So Castro's statement is off.

However, these states still have economic struggles. Pennsylvania has lost factory jobs since the end of 2018. So has Michigan . And Ohio has shed 100 factory jobs so far this year.

Warren supports removing troops from Mideast

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she supports removing members of the American military from the Middle East.

Warren said Tuesday during the Democratic presidential debate: "I think we ought to get out of the Middle East. I don't think we should have troops in the Middle East."

Warren added that it has to happen in an appropriate, thoughtful way.

Democrats at the Democratic debate in Ohio have largely scorned President Donald Trump's approach to foreign policy. Former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg are among those arguing that Trump is abandoning U.S. allies and weakening the nation's standing around the world by abruptly pulling troops from northern Syria. -AP

 RELATED: Democratic Party leader comes to Dayton, stresses Ohio’s role in election

Is age an issue for a president?

The three oldest candidates in the Democratic presidential field are facing questions over their age during Tuesday night's debate.

Bernie Sanders is the oldest candidate at 78 and just returned to the campaign trail after suffering a heart attack. He declined to answer when asked how he would reassure Americans of his good health, saying only that he would run a "vigorous campaign all over this country."

Seventy-six-year-old Joe Biden argued that his experience and wisdom are assets because "I know what has to be done" as president. He also promised to release his medical records before the first nominating contest in Iowa in February.

And Elizabeth Warren, who's 70 years old, promised to outwork, out-organize and outlast anyone, including the Republicans. -AP

MORE: What’s on your ballot?: Voters guide available for November election

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