Insults were exchanged and accusations were abundant during the final scheduled Ohio U.S. Senate debate between Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan and Republican nominee J.D. Vance on Oct. 17.
The candidates are vying to replace retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman in a race that is expected to determine which party controls the chamber.
Tension escalated towards the end of the hour-long debate when a moderator asked Vance and Ryan their view about the “great replacement” theory, which is a doctrine that liberals are attempting to take power by replacing white voters with non-whites through immigration among other ways.
One moderator asked Vance about the great replacement theory and added, “If the flow of non-white immigrants isn’t stopped. Mr Vance, you have warned of an immigrant invasion, according to a wise story from last May. Who are these invaders? And how are they coming into this country?”
Vance answered that the primary way immigrants are entering the United States is “through Tim Ryan and Joe Biden’s wide open southern border to the tune of about 2.5 million people, and of course it’s not just the people, it’s the fentanyl, it’s the sex trafficking. It’s all the other things that they’re bringing right along with them.
“They [Democrats] say that they want more and more immigration because if that happens, they’ll ensure that Republicans are never able to win another national election,” Vance added. “It’s not about whites or non-whites. I mean, there are white immigrants and non-white immigrants in this country who have enriched this country in an incredible way.
“I’m married to one I’m married to the daughter of South Asian immigrants, and my life really has been unbelievably blessed and enriched because she decided to say ‘yes’ when I asked her to marry me, but her family came in legally. They follow the laws in this country,” Vance continued.
“Whether your family came into this country a generation ago, or whether they came 10 generations ago, we’re all part of the same family. But your introduction to this country should not be breaking its laws. You should come in through the proper channels.”
Ryan was then asked by the moderator about his view on the great replacement theory.
Ryan talked about the supermarket shooting in Buffalo last May that left 10 black people dead. The theory was allegedly embraced by the suspect. Ryan accused Vance of supporting the belief.
“This great replacement theory was the motivator for the shooting in Buffalo, where that shooter had all these great replacement theory writings that J.D. Vance agrees with,” Ryan said.
“Some sicko got this information that he’s pedaling with, again, those extremists that he runs around with Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ted Cruz, all these guys. They just want to stoke this racial violence.
“We’re tired of it J.D. This kid goes to a grocery store in Buffalo where black people shop and shoot some up. No, we want to move on from that everyone’s exhausted. So I keep saying I want to represent the exhausted majority. People that are tired of this stuff.”
Visibly angry, Vance fired back at Ryan.
“Here’s exactly what happens when the media and people like Tim Ryan accuse me of engaging the grace great replacement theory. I’ll tell you exactly what happens.
“Tim, what happens is that my own children, my biracial children, get attacked by scumbags online and in person because you are so desperate for political power that you’ll accuse me—the father of three beautiful biracial babies—of engaging in racism.”
“We are sick of it. You can believe in a border without being a racist. You can believe in the country without being a racist,” Vance continued.
“And this just shows how desperate this guy is for political power. I know you’ve been in office for 20 years, Tim, and I know it’s a sweet gig, but you’re so desperate not to have a real job that you’ll slander me and slander my family. It’s disgraceful.”
With a smirk on his face, Ryan responded by saying, “I think I struck a nerve with this guy.”
Hosted in Youngstown, in the region where Ryan lives and has represented as a U.S. Rep for 20 years, the debate was held on the same day a USA Today/Suffolk University Poll showed that Vance holds a 47 percent to 45 percent lead over Ryan.
It was the second and final scheduled debate between the candidates, who sparred over the same topics the previous week.
Vance pointed out that though Ryan says he stands up against leaders in the Democratic party, he has voted with President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “100 percent of the time,” a claim backed by Ryan’s congressional voting records.
Ryan continued to call Vance an extremist for the Hillbilly Elegy author’s views on abortion, illegal immigration, the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol event, and the Trump endorsement.
Trump won Ohio by eight points in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Vance and Ryan are vying to replace retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who is considered a moderate. Ryan has portrayed himself as a moderate who appeals to Democrats, non-MAGA Republicans, and independents.
While Ryan’s TV ads and in-person messaging reflect a platform designed to appeal to crossover voters, Vance continues to discuss the congressman’s full allegiance to Biden and Pelosi and remind Ohioans of his criticism of law enforcement, and that his voting record has contributed to escalating cost of living.
“That rising energy price that people see at the pump, that they see in their utility bills, that our farmers see when they’re paying more for diesel—that was the direct result of policies enacted by Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and supported 100 percent by Tim Ryan,” Vance said, answering the opening question about inflation.
One question in the debate was directed at Vance regarding Trump’s comment at a rally last month when the former president said that Vance “is kissing my ass.”
Vance said that, “Donald Trump told a joke. He told a joke at a rally based on a false New York Times story and Tim Ryan has decided to run his entire campaign on that now.
“Look, Tim Ryan is publicly out there on national television, saying ‘I love Nancy Pelosi.’ A few months ago, he went before a national audience and said that he has to suck up and kiss up to Chuck Schumer. The guy who’s subservient to the national party is Tim Ryan, who has been begging for these guys to come into this race and save him from the campaign that he’s been running.”
Ryan promptly responded with, “If you want to run against Nancy Pelosi, move back to San Francisco and run against Nancy Pelosi. You’re running against me.”
Both candidates were asked if they believe Trump should respond to the subpoena issued by the House Jan. 6 committee.
Trump should respond, Ryan said, calling Jan. 6 an “insurrection.”
“He should respond to the subpoena; he should come clean,” Ryan said. “If he has nothing to hide, he should come clean, and I do think that the insurrection was a group of people who are trying to overthrow the United States of America.”
Vance said he will not pretend to offer legal advice to the former president.
Last week, the House Jan. 6 committee voted to subpoena Trump.
“The Jan. 6 committee has shown from the very beginning that it’s not interested in the truth, that it’s interested in a political hit job that goes back to four years ago,” Vance said.
“There’s been a nonstop political effort to not honor the election of 2016 but I think that’s just as much of a threat to democracy as the violence on Jan. 6,” Vance added.
Early voting has started in Ohio. According to the Secretary of State’s office, more than 812,000 Ohioans have already requested absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 general election.