Candidates in Ohio's U.S. Senate campaign on Saturday argued in a second debate over different positions on taxes, immigration, gun control, climate change, the influence of money on politics and health care.
In opening remarks, Sherrod Brown, the two-term incumbent Democrat, said he hoped the debate would stay focused on issues and what the candidates could do for Ohio families as senators.
In his opening remarks, GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci said the race was between two people with different visions, and said Brown's vision was of Washington "and special interest money."
Both took different positions when asked about the impact of the federal tax cuts. Brown repeated his criticism of the law, saying three-fourths of the benefits help the country's wealthiest 1 percent. He said "of course" he would change it "so we focus on the middle class, we don't focus on giving tax cuts to the richest people in this country."
Renacci said the tax cuts are working and boosting the economy. "My opponent doesn't seem to be traveling the state and talking to the same people. I come around and I get thank yous from people saying, 'I now have more money in my paycheck.' "
Asked about the federal health care act, Brown once again targeted Renacci for votes to eliminate the law, which would have ended coverage for preexisting conditions.
Renacci said the health care law is too expensive, but he denied opposing preexisting conditions.
The two candidates disagreed on gun control, in a question that addressed keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill. Renacci said the mentally ill need more of a safety net, and that applies to the issue of gun violence. "We should be looking at background checks, and making sure the same thing —when someone has mental illness in their background, that they don't get those guns."
Brown said Congressional Republicans refuse to address basic loopholes in gun laws, such as allowing people on a federal terrorism watch list to buy assault weapons. He also said that Republicans who oppose Medicaid expansion are hurting the very mental illness coverage of the type Renacci supports.
On the topic of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Brown said he does not support abolishing the agency, but he said it needs to be reformed and improved. He said the government should concentrate on deporting undocumented individuals who commit crimes, not those who are working, raising families and paying taxes.
Renacci said he disagrees with the now-ended federal policy of separating children from parents at the border, but he accused Brown of taking the position that "illegal immigration" doesn't matter. "They're illegal. They're here illegally," Renacci said.
Midway through the debate, Renacci once again accused Brown of a different standard of conduct on domestic abuse, raising Brown's divorce in the 1980s when his then-wife accused him of domestic violence.
Later, Renacci was asked by a debate moderator about an allegation of domestic violence against Donald Trump by his ex-wife, Ivana Trump, in a divorce deposition, and whether that should have disqualified Trump from serving as president.
"I think Republicans, Democrats, independents, if they violate, and they put their hand on a woman, none of them, none of them should be serving in the United States Senate or the House," Renacci said.
Brown's ex-wife, Larke Recchie, and her second husband have held fundraisers for Brown and repeatedly asked Republicans to stop using the divorce in political campaigns, a point Brown made again Saturday directly to Renacci, adding: "The states' newspapers have asked you to stop making these disgusting allegations. You should be ashamed of yourself."
As they did in their first debate, the candidates also disagreed on a question about the impact of climate change. Renacci said he supports clean air and water but also growing Ohio's coal and gas industries. Brown said Congress is too beholden to the fossil fuel industry to do anything about climate change.
A third debate is planned Oct. 26 at Miami University in Oxford. The election is November 6.