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Fact-checking heats up Ohio's Republican U.S. Senate debate in Wilberforce

News: Senate Republican Primary Debates
Joshua A. Bickel/Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Com
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The Columbus Dispatch
Mar 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; Candidates stand on stage during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Republican Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

The debate, sponsored by the Ohio Debate Commission, was held at Central State University

Ohio’s Republican U.S. Senate candidates squared off in a debate last night at Central State University.

Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), investment banker Mike Gibbons, former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, businessman Neil Patel, entrepreneur Mark Pukita, former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken, and author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance took the stage at Central State University, one of Ohio's historically Black colleges.

In her opening statement, Jane Timken described herself as a mom on a mission.

“We’ve got a lot of show horses in this race but I’m the workhorse who will lead with grit and grace. President Trump asked me to take over the Republican Party and I delivered Ohio for President Trump,” Timken said.

Jane Timken
Josh Bickel
/
Ohio Debate Commission
Josh Bickel, Ohio Debate Commission

In fact, most of the candidates praised many of Trump’s policies. Mike Gibbons said when it came to immigration, he’d finish Trump’s wall.

“I think one of the things that has to happen is to finish the wall because they are coming through the cracks. If there were no cracks, they couldn’t get through. Once they step on our soil, they are entitled to due process. We’ve got to change the law. I believe if the president announced if you come here, you will have no path to citizenship in this country if you came here illegally, that would stop an awful lot of this. We need to finish the wall. We need to secure the border and we need to enforce the law," Gibbons said.

Mike Gibbons
Josh Bickel
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Ohio Debate Commission
Mike Gibbons

J.D. Vance took that one step further saying illegal immigrants were getting social benefits.

“Stop giving welfare to people who come to this country illegally. A lot of the reason that we have non-stop border crossings is because people know we are a generous country. We always should be a generous country. But that generosity should only extend to people who have followed our laws, not to people who have broken them,” Vance said.

J.D. Vance
Josh Bickel
/
Ohio Debate Commission
Mar 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Republican candidate J.D. Vance answers a question during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Republican Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Trump has not endorsed anyone in this race. And Neil Patel says even though he likes Trump’s policies, he’s not expecting his endorsement.

“I don’t think he’s going to endorse anyone and I don’t think I’m going to get an endorsement from him as well,” Patel said.

Neil Patel
Jo Ingles
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Neil Patel answers questions from reporters following GOP Senate candidates debate at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio

The first question - the one most commonly submitted to the Ohio Debate Commission - was about the 2020 election and President Trump. Though the question noted that Trump and his supporters have lost more than 60 lawsuits over the election, and often before judges appointed by Trump, Josh Mandel echoed the sentiments of all but one of the candidates on stage.

“But I want to say it very clearly, for all of the RINO’s and media elites out there, the 2020 election was stolen from Donald J Trump,” Mandel said.

Josh Mandel
Josh Bickel
/
Ohio Debate Commission
Mar 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Republican candidate Josh Mandel stands on stage before the start of Ohio’s U.S. Senate Republican Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Numerous fact-checkers have found no evidence that the election was stolen. And during the debate, Ohio Public Radio/TV Statehouse Bureau Chief Karen Kasler was heckled by the audience for continually fact-checking various versions of this claim.

The only candidate who didn’t think the election was stolen was Matt Dolan. He said he thought the other candidates were too focused on Trump.

“There are people up on this stage who are literally fighting for one vote and that person doesn’t even vote in Ohio. And that concern for that one vote doesn’t end on Election Day. My responsibility is to be the senator from Ohio for Ohio,” Dolan said.

State Senator Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) speaks to reporters after the debate at Central State University
Jo Ingles
/
Statehouse News Bureau
State Senator Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) speaks to reporters after the debate at Central State University

Supporters of the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen have often criticized the media. After the debate, Mark Pukita railed on reporters after the debate for the questions that were asked and the numerous fact checks made during the debate by Kasler.

“This fact-checking is just nonsense. The fact-checkers are actually helping to spew and support lies and we have got to be done with it. I think Americans are smart enough to know when they’ve been hoodwinked," Pukita said.

Mark Pukita speaks to reporters after the debate at Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio
Jo Ingles
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Mark Pukita speaks to reporters after the debate at Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio

This was the only debate to feature all seven candidates on the May primary ballot, and it's the last scheduled debate for the Republican US Senate candidates before that vote.

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