Vance, Ryan clash in final fiery debate

Kelsey Drennen, TV2 Reporter

Jesse Khalil, Reporter

Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance clashed over gun control, abortion, immigration, Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi Monday night at the Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown during their second and final debate.

Locked in on a tight race for the Senate, both candidates made their final case to voters as to why they deserve to fill the seat vacated by Ohio Senator Rob Portman. The winner of the election holds weight, as it could determine the balance of power in the Senate, which is split 50-50.

Hosted by 21 News WFMJ, the debate was moderated by the station’s news anchors Derek Steyer, Lindsay McCoy and veteran Ohio Valley journalist Bertram de Souza.

Inflation 

The first topic addressed was inflation. Ryan said the solution to the issue lies within the Inflation Reduction Act and tax cuts on working families. Vance countered Ryan’s point, stating that the Inflation Reduction Act is only adding “fuel to the fire.”

Vance then accused Ryan of “voting with Pelosi and Biden 100% of the time,” stating that his support of the Biden administration and “runaway spending” is what caused the U.S. to fall into the inflation crisis.

Party Criticisms

The second topic discussed came from a specific comment made by Ryan during the first debate, where Ryan called Vance Donald Trump’s “ass kisser.”

Vance was asked to identify one issue he has with Donald Trump, to which he responded, “I disagree with President Trump on a number of things. He is a good friend of mine, and of course, I am proud to have his endorsement.”

Vance went on to say Ryan is pushing for him to be an “ass kisser” to the Trump administration but is using it out of context. He said the former president simply told “a joke at a rally based on a false New York Times story,” and Ryan has decided to run with it and build his whole campaign on the comment.

Ryan’s comment claiming to “love Nancy Pelosi” and needing to “kiss up to Chuck Schumer” were brought up by Vance in response to Ryan’s criticisms.

Ryan noted Vance’s close relationship with the former president, driving home the point that the former Trump critic was “calling Trump America’s Hitler, then kissed his ass.”

Ryan continued, saying that the Nancy Pelosi quote was taken out of context.

“I don’t have to hate her. I don’t have to hate anybody … I took her on. She was the top Democrat in the entire country, and I stood toe to toe with her … and I spoke my peace,” Ryan said.

Ohio Senate hopefuls Tim Ryan (left) and J.D. Vance (right) prepare on stage for their second live debate hosted at the Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (Jesse Khalil)

Abortion and Roe v. Wade 

Ryan said the next step in his battle for the senate is to stop Senator Lindsey Graham’s proposal for a national abortion ban, citing women who could not get abortions after cases of rape due to Ohio’s heartbeat bill, leading these women to travel out of state for the procedure.

“Vance and his extreme crew, they want to have a national abortion ban,” Ryan said. “They are not happy with people traveling to Illinois. They want people to get a passport and have to go to Canada.”

Ryan continued, “If the Republicans control the House and the Senate, we won’t be able to codify Roe v. Wade.”

Vance stood by his comment from the previous debate that he believes the 10-year-old girl who had to travel out of state for an abortion should have been allowed to have one in Ohio. He then went on to say he believes there should be better access to abortion alternatives.

Vance then criticized Ryan for allegedly supporting no abortion limits, meaning that a woman could get an abortion at any point during pregnancy.

“The Lindsay Graham bill protects babies who are four weeks and older … and it provides reasonable exceptions,” Vance said. “If you cannot support legislation like that, then you are making the United States the most barbaric pro-abortion regime anywhere in the entire world.”

The War on Drugs 

Vance was then asked about how he plans to address the opioid crisis in the Ohio Valley.

Vance said he believes the solution lies within closing the border, stating that more drugs are flowing into Ohio because of illegal immigrants coming into the state.

Vance also said Ohio must properly resource its mental health, addiction and recovery services.

Ryan agreed that stronger border control could help decrease the amount of overdose deaths in Ohio.

“We have to punish the Chinese, because they know it’s getting into our country,” Ryan said. “We have to punish the Mexican government, because we know it’s coming from there.”

Ryan then criticized Vance’s alleged fake nonprofit created to help those struggling with addiction, claiming that the organization did not actually help any individuals recover.

Vance rebutted, saying he put in $80,000 of his own money into the non-profit to aid in people’s recovery. He then attacked Ryan, stating that he does not actually support border control because of his voting history during his time in Congress.

“You cannot honestly pretend to be a supporter of border security when you have voted for amnesty multiple times in the Congress,” Vance said. “You cannot pretend to be a defender of border security when you have voted against a boarder wall multiple times.”

A Threat to Democracy: January 6, 2021

The threat to American democracy and the recent vote to subpoena President Trump in relation to the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol building was the next topic of discussion.

Both candidates were asked if the attack posed a threat to American democracy and if Trump should honor the subpoena.

Ryan said Trump should respond to the request.

“If he has nothing to hide, then he should come forward and come clean so we can figure out what’s going on,” Ryan said.

Ryan then said that he believes the riot at the Capitol was, in fact, a threat to democracy and an attempt to stop the peaceful transition of power from President Trump to President Joe Biden.

“There were 140 cops with the United States Capitol police that were beaten upside the head with lead pipes, pepper sprayed, jammed in the doors, beat up with flag poles, and one person died,” Ryan said.

He then said that following the attack, Vance took to social media to create a post raising legal defense money for the insurrectionists.

Vance said he is not looking to give Trump legal advice but describes the Jan. 6 Committee as a team of “political hit-jobs” and criticized Ryan for shaming the violence at the Capitol in 2021 but remaining silent during the June 2020 riots in support of George Floyd.

Ryan then reiterated his belief that Jan. 6 needs to be investigated, because he said it was an attempt to overthrow the peaceful transition of power.

“We have a very complicated democracy here, but we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Ryan said. “If a group of people storm the Capitol while we are trying to file the paperwork for an election, and they are trying to prevent that from happening, they wanted to kill the vice president. That needs to be looked into.”

Gun Control 

The next debate topic was gun control and red flag laws.

Vance said he is a supporter of the second amendment, and he said no convicted felon should be allowed to purchase a firearm. He said he blames the recent surge in gun violence on criticisms and riots against politics.

Ryan agreed, saying he too supports the second amendment. However, he said he believes the gun show loophole needs to end and the country needs to stop the selling of “weapons of war.” He also criticized Vance for allegedly crediting Alex Jones as “one of the most credible news sources in the country,” even after Jones claimed that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax.

Vance denied the alleged comment and said that part of the solution to ending school shootings is arming teachers, increasing funding for school safety officers and making criminals are imprisoned. Vance then criticized Ryan for supporting the elimination of cash bail.

“Ending cash bail is on the far left of his own party and is the very sort of thing that makes communities less safe,” Vance said.

Ryan disagreed with Vance’s proposal to arm teachers, calling it “dangerous” and a “risky proposition.” He went on to say both him and Portman tried to pass reasonable gun safety legislation that Vance disagreed with.

“We have to come together. You have to find points of agreement here … I want to go to the Senate and represent Republicans, Democrats and independents. I am going to promise to try and find some commonsense solutions here,” Ryan said.

Tim Ryan supporters outside of Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (Jesse Khalil)

Police and Race 

The next topic discussed was qualified immunity and holding police accountable.

Vance said he believes enough measures are in place that hold bad police officers accountable. He also said that ending qualified immunity will only increase violent crime, because it will make police even more scared to do their jobs.

Ryan said there needs to be a national discussion surrounding police officers who no longer enjoy their jobs or no longer want to join the police force.

“I think we need to provide the kind of leadership to start the healing process,” Ryan said. “Of course, we need to get rid of bad cops, but we also need more good cops, and we need better paid cops.”

Immigration 

The final topic up for debate was immigration and the “great replacement theory” which suggests that white Americans will no longer be the majority if immigrants continue to come into the country.

Vance said he believes Democratic leadership is “very clear” about wanting more and more immigration to ensure that Republicans will never be able to win another election. He said his view has nothing to do with whites vs. non-whites, since his wife and her family are legal immigrants.

“Your introduction to this country should not be breaking its laws. You should come in through the proper channels,” Vance said. “You can believe in the border without being racist. You can believe in this country without being racist.”

Ryan called the theory “nonsense,” saying that it is based in “the most racially diverse writings in the history of the world” and accused Vance and fellow Republican leaders of further pushing a racial divide in the U.S.

Vance responded that Ryan’s attack was “shameful” given that he has three biracial children who regularly get attacked by “scumbags” online because of the Democratic rhetoric.

“I think I struck a nerve with this guy,” Ryan said, to which Vance replied, “You absolutely struck a nerve.”

Closing Statements 

Vance closed the debate by stating that Ryan has been in office for 20 years and accused him of doing little to help the people in his district, claiming that he only passed five bills during his career, including three that “renamed the post office.”

“My argument here is I want you to have a better life, and you’re not going to get a better life from federal leadership until we take this country in a different direction,” Vance said.

Ryan ended on the note that the country needs to get local jobs back in a good and stable place.

“We’ve worked hard … to bring economic development back here, and it’s a shame that someone running for Senate wants to come to Youngstown and trash all the hard work that we’ve done together over the last 20 years,” Ryan said.

The debate can be watched in its entirety on 21 News’ official YouTube Channel.

Jesse Khalil is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]