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Ohio U.S. senator candidates debate abortion, Trump and more at Miami

<p>Bernie Moreno (left), Matt Dolan (middle) and Frank LaRose (right) are the Republican candidates for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat.</p>

Bernie Moreno (left), Matt Dolan (middle) and Frank LaRose (right) are the Republican candidates for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat.

Three Republican candidates for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat took the stage at Miami University on Wednesday, March 6, at 7 p.m. for the last debate ahead of the March 19 primary. The debate was held at the Gates-Abegglen Theater at the Center for Performing Arts and was broadcasted by WLWT News 5. 

Sheree Paolello from WLWT moderated the debate between Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Ohio State Sen. Matt Dolan and Cleveland business owner Bernie Moreno. The seat is currently held by Democrat Sherrod Brown, who is running uncontested in the Democratic primary.

Ethan Pratt, a junior political science major, said he came to this event because he enjoys political debate and the discussion of different viewpoints. Pratt, as an out of state student, hoped the candidates would discuss their views on the education policy in Ohio.

“I’ve always enjoyed learning about politics, so I thought this would be a cool opportunity,” Pratt said. “I just hope to get a better perspective on the candidates out of this debate.”

Miami President Gregory Crawford gave opening remarks before the event aired live. Crawford acknowledged the support of Miami student volunteers and the Miami Police Department.

To begin the debate, all three candidates were randomly chosen to give opening remarks.

LaRose used this time to criticize his two opponents and asked the audience, both in the auditorium and at home, “Who do you trust?”

Moreno opened by thanking Miami and reminded voters of the crucial election that is to come in two weeks. Moreno wants to promote the America First Movement started by former President Donald Trump, who he is endorsed by. 

Dolan said his past experience in the public and private sector will allow him to continue doing what he has done. 

Photo by Provided by Miami University | The Miami Student

Dolan (left) and LaRose (right) argue their views on topics like border security and supporting former President Donald Trump.

Paolello: With the polls being so close, and with there being so many similarities between the three [candidates], what differentiates you from each other?

LaRose started by addressing his support for the Second Amendment and anti-abortion rights, and expressed his support for parents as a father to two kids himself. 

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Moreno followed, speaking in support of deportation, term limits for office and a cut off in the money being sent to Ukraine.

“I am the only one on stage that would clearly and unequivocally say that we should not send any more money to Ukraine,” Moreno said. “We need to put America and American interests first and get the war resolved.”

Dolan pushed his beliefs of lower taxes and regulations, fewer abortions and support for the police. 

Paolello: What specifically would you do to put more money in the pockets of Ohio workers?

Moreno said wages are not keeping up with expenses, and government spending on things like infrastructure laws hurts the economy.

Dolan focused on helping small businesses by reinvesting in them and the need to be strong economically globally.

LaRose said that in order to be prosperous, America needs to hone in its natural resources.

“The secret to American prosperity has always been hard working people, great natural resources,” LaRose said. “... We need to be not just energy independent, but energy dominant.”

Paolello: What are you specifically going to do to fix the problem of border control?

Dolan said the only solution is sealing the border temporarily in order to build a wall and to work with Mexico to stop the cartel.

LaRose built on this idea by saying there should be military divisions deployed to the border, and anyone who crossed illegally should have a lifetime ban on citizenship.

Moreno, unlike the other two candidates, said this was a problem with America’s asylum laws. 

“We have a border issue in the United States,” Dolan said. “But under [President Joe Biden] it is a border crisis, and it deserves to be responded to as such.”

Paolello: Do you agree with the role America is playing in the war in the Middle East? Specifically tell me how big a role we should be playing, if at all.

Moreno spoke of his Jewish family members and his endorsements by the Head of the Republican Jewish Coalition in response to criticism from LaRose over his lack of support for Israel.

Dolan said America needs to ensure that Israel has the resources they need to defeat terrorist organizations and it ultimately comes down to keeping Americans safe.

LaRose attacked Moreno for his “let it burn, not our problem” mentality when it comes to Israel, and said the first step in ending the war in Israel is by replacing the president this November.

“There will be no stronger supporter for the modern state of Israel than me,” LaRose said.

Paolello: Do you support a federal ban on abortion, or do you believe that it’s up to the states, like Ohio?

Dolan talked about how his position on abortion has not always aligned with his fellow Republicans because he believes in abortion exceptions, such as health of the mother, rape and incest. 

Photo by Provided by Miami University | The Miami Student

For the hour the candidates were on stage, they talked about topics like abortion, border control and immigration.

Moreno focused on improving access to contraception and women’s healthcare, decreasing the cost of having children and channeling funds to all pregnancy centers except for Planned Parenthood. In his argument he brought up a speculation that LaRose was supposed to be in a zoom call Tuesday night with a third-party organization called No Labels. 

Moreno said No Labels is “the most radical planned parenthood amnesty open borders organization that is even too liberal for Nikki Haley.”

In response to Moreno, LaRose said his labels are well known as a conservative Republican and denied the speculation of a meeting with No Labels.

LaRose echoed the idea of lowering costs for parents looking to raise children and pushed for easier access to contraceptives. He considers himself to be the most “pro-life” out of the three candidates. 

In their closing remarks, all three candidates again emphasized the importance of this upcoming election and thanked their families for supporting them. 

Media pool questions

Following the event, candidates took questions from the media. Two out of the three candidates answered questions posed to them by the press; however, LaRose sent his campaign spokesperson, Rick Gorka, to speak on his behalf. Gorka said LaRose went to a watch party of the debate immediately following the event.

Gorka said LaRose was doing a radio interview during the time of the No Labels meeting, and he was never going to be on the call. When asked if No Labels was lying about the meeting, Gorka replied, “I think I've said what I needed to say on it, [and] Frank talked about it on the debate stage.”

Photo by Olivia Patel | The Miami Student

Following the debate, Moreno answers questions concerning reaching undecided voters and campaign experience.

When Morneo was asked if his lack of experience in state government would hurt his campaign, he said the whole problem is that his opponents view everything from the lens of government.

“What I see when I travel all over Ohio is their sticker career politicians, they want outsiders, they want business people who know how to get things done,” Moreno said.

Dolan, who is the only candidate who has not endorsed Trump’s campaign for presidential reelection, was asked what voters he’s trying to speak to that his opponents aren’t, considering he advocates for Trump policies while the other two support Trump’s campaign.

“I’m speaking to all Republican voters, and I’m the only one that can speak to all Ohioans,” Dolan said.

The election will be held on Tuesday, March 19.