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GOP candidates contend for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat in first statewide debate

Values of trust and integrity, along with digging up litigation and accusations came to the forefront Monday night as Republican Senate hopefuls battled for the March primary GOP nomination. 

In efforts to be the Republican nominee following the March 19 primary, three GOP candidates stood at the podiums at WJW Fox 8 Studios in Cleveland: Frank LaRose, Ohio’s Secretary of State; Matt Dolan, a state Senator; and Bernie Moreno, a Cleveland businessman endorsed by former President Donald Trump. 

Since 2007, incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate, which paved the way for all Republican candidates prompting to oust him in the November election. 

“I think one thing is for sure that is in the U.S. Senate it’s time for a replacement for Sherrod Brown and I think I’m the clear one best positioned to do that,” LaRose said in an interview with press. “That’ll be up for the voters to decide.”

The hour-long debate that aired statewide gave constituents the opportunity to see where the candidates stand on certain issues, such as immigration, reproductive rights and the economy. 

All supported a federal limit on abortion access, along with eliminating birthright citizenship, that if someone illegally entered into the U.S., a child born within U.S. jurisdiction will not be granted U.S. citizenship.

Three GOP candidates, Frank LaRose (left), Bernie Moreno (center) and Matt Dolan (right), took the stage Jan. 22, 2024, in a debate to receive the Republican nomination. (Courtesy of WJW FOX 8 TV)

On the topic of the southern border, Dolan said the U.S. should work with the Mexican government to reduce the drug and human trafficking occurring, LaRose called the situation a “full scale invasion” and Moreno said he would deport anybody who entered the U.S. illegally. 

Also among the topics discussed was former President Donald Trump.

After thinking Trump would stay out of the race and not endorse a candidate, LaRose prized himself on being a middle-class Ohioan during the debate. 

“I live in the real economy, just like everyday Ohioans do,” LaRose said during the debate. “I’m not sure if [Dolan and Moreno] have to sit at the kitchen table and figure out how to pay their bills the way most Ohioans do.” 

Moreno, a former car dealership owner, attempted a bid for the same U.S. Senate seat in 2022, but dropped out of the race because of Trump-led influence. He has used the term “outsider” throughout his campaign to align with the former president and present a business background to voters.

“The way we solve this economy, we have to stop sending career politicians and lawyers to Washington D.C. that have actually never done it,” Moreno said during the debate. “They have no idea how to create jobs because they’ve never actually done it.”

During the debate, Moreno made comments toward fellow candidate Matt Dolan comparing him to former Republican Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney, who was not re-elected in her state after comments made on Trump and her role in the U.S. House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack. Additionally, Moreno made comments on Dolan’s family and their ownership of the Cleveland Guardians baseball team. 

“Compare my lawsuits to the number of lawsuits the Cleveland [Guardians] have had and maybe your dad can explain how business works,” Moreno said to Dolan during the debate.

Dolan, a state Senator since 2017, tried in 2022 to defeat fellow Republican J.D. Vance, who was endorsed by Trump then, in the Republican primary for the other U.S. Senate seat in Ohio that was vacated by former Republican Senator Rob Portman. 

During the debate, Dolan brought up Moreno’s lawsuits brought forth by former employees of his companies, questioning whether voters can trust him.

“This is about trust and Bernie we learned this week, I don’t know if we can trust you,” Dolan said during the debate. “Your employees trusted you to follow a court order and not destroy documents that help their case against you, but what did you do, you shredded those documents.”

Outside of the idea of trusting the elected official constituents will vote upon, Dolan said in an interview with press that the decision of voters is more than the primary election, it’s about putting a candidate forward for the November election. 

“It surprised me that in the [candidates’] closing statements, I’m the only one that said this is about beating Sherrod Brown and going to Washington and getting things done,” Dolan said in an interview with press.

LaRose, in an interview with press, said his values are the same from the beginning and his performance during the debate outdid the fellow candidates.

“One thing I think was clear was that, I can so humbly [say] that I won that debate,” LaRose said. “It’s clear there is one battle-tested conservative that’s ready to go defeat Sherrod Brown and put our country back on track.”

Currently, the U.S. Senate has a Democratic-leaning majority, with the help of Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote. However, if the seat in Ohio flipped, this will assist in leading to a Republican majority. 

The primary will take place March 19, where all three GOP candidates will be on the ballot to secure the Republican nomination to be on the November ballot where if they win there, will be elected to a six-year term. 

Anthony Zacharyasz is the managing editor. Contact him at [email protected].

Alexandria Manthey is a TV2 Reporter. Contact her at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Anthony Zacharyasz, Managing Editor
Anthony is a senior journalism major with a business minor in his fifth semester at KentWired, serving as the managing editor for the spring semester. Previously, he was a reporter and general assignment editor where plenty of communication, leadership and writing skills were put to the test. Additionally, he is a part of TV2, as an anchor and segment anchor paving the way for multimedia opportunities. He enjoys writing about politics at all levels, business environments and financial matters. Contact him at [email protected].

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