‘Incredibly disappointing:’ Governor DeWine and Vance say no to debates

Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate and Ohio governor’s office have refused to face off against their opponents in a debate, organizers said Wednesday.

Incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine and U.S. Senate candidate JD Vance will not appear at forums scheduled for October hosted by the Ohio Debate Commission, an independent organization with ties to state media. The gubernatorial race now has no debate on the horizon, and the Senate race doesn’t seem much more optimistic on the subject.

“We’re obviously disappointed,” ODC board chairman Dan Moulthrop said.

“This election year has been plagued by candidates from both parties who prioritize the input of their campaign consultants over the information needs of voters. When 84% of Ohioans say they want debates and campaigns turn down a bona fide offer from a statewide organization, democracy pays the price.

In both races, the Democratic candidates have lambasted their rivals’ apparent reluctance to debate in public – without the filter of political managers or the media. Both pointed to a recent USA TODAY Network Ohio/Suffolk University poll indicating that 84% of Ohioans want to see their candidates debate.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley has criticized DeWine’s refusal to debate and her evasive statements on the subject in recent weeks. DeWine said his openness to interviews, newspaper editorial meetings and decades in office was enough for voters.

The prognosis for the debate in the Senate is rather a mess.

Ryan publicly accepted and challenged Vance to three debates hosted by the ODC, Youngstown area news station WFMJ-TV, and Cincinnati news station WLWT.

Vance dismissed the ODC debate, with a spokesperson calling the moderator “a liberal donor to Tim Ryan who has repeatedly and publicly smeared Republicans.” On Monday, in the hours before the deadline to respond to the ODC’s debate invitation, two conservative news outlets ran stories chronicling the moderator’s story of contributing $250 to Tim Ryan in 2014 and running for office. as a Democrat in 2014 and 2016. FEC records show the moderator, Jill Zimon, stopped donating to politicians in 2018.

Meanwhile, WFMJ invited the two Senate candidates to debate in July. Ryan accepted. Not Vance.

“We have no feedback or response from the Vance campaign as to whether or not they are interested,” news director Mona Alexander said.

The Vance campaign declined to comment on the WFMJ case.

As for WLWT, the candidates do not agree on the date. Ryan has publicly announced that he will be participating in the WLWT debate on October 4. Vance, a few days later, said he would participate in the WLWT debate on a date yet to be determined. However, he agreed to participate in a debate organized by Nexstar, which owns several television news stations in Ohio, also scheduled for October 4.

Ryan’s campaign said he would not participate in the Nexstar debate because he had already committed to the WLWT event. In a statement, he accused Vance of trying to “double book” as an excuse. Vance declined to comment on the WLWT event.

Jeff Benscoter, chief information officer for WLWT, said in an email that the two campaigns have “formally agreed to debate WLWT,” but are still finalizing a date.

A Nexstar spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry.

Whaley and Ryan both expressed frustration with the lack of debate – a long-standing tradition in American politics.

“It’s incredibly disappointing. I’ve accepted that and many other debates across Ohio,” Whaley said. “I guess Mike DeWine is too loose to defend his record. Ohio deserves better.

A DeWine spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry.

Ryan’s campaign, in a statement, criticized Vance, noting that he participated in an ODC debate during the Republican primary.

“Tim Ryan remains more eager than ever to debate JD Vance, but for that to happen, JD needs to stop hiding from debate organizers and trying to withdraw from forums both candidates have already engaged in,” said Ryan’s campaign manager Dave Chase. in a report. “All we want is for JD and his team to stop playing games and have the courtesy to respond to these reputable media outlets trying to give Ohio voters the fair debate they deserve.”

The refusal to debate publicly follows the steady decline of democratic standards on the political right. Republicans have also refused Senate debates across the country. The New York Times reports that four Republican-controlled states (including Ohio) will hold elections this year on redistricting maps that their state supreme courts have ruled unconstitutional. Polls from various universities over the past two years have found that between 60% and 80% of Republicans mistakenly believe the election was stolen – a claim echoed by Vance. Republican U.S. state legislatures in 2021 passed dozens of voter restrictions on mail-in voting, voter registration, voter ID requirements, and more.

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