A rare 16th Congressional District Republican debate last night revealed little difference on the issues between the two front runners. But attitude was a different matter. The third candidate on the stage stood apart on both issues and attitude.
On issues like gun rights, immigration, and lower taxes, former NFL player Anthony Gonzalez and state Rep. Christina Hagan are in near lock step. Take their separate but similar points on the federal government:
“I believe that the federal government has expanded beyond any form that the would make sense to our founding fathers today,” Gonzalez said.
“The federal government has far outgrown its purpose and its nature,” Hagan said.
But with Election Day a week away, the race for the GOP nomination for the seat has grown increasingly nasty. Ads supporting Gonzalez, a former Ohio State Buckeye and Colts wide receiver who was endorsed by the Ohio Republican Party, paint Hagan as a “swamp creature.”
Hagan, 29-year-old state lawmaker, has filed a federal elections complaint accusing Gonzalez of colluding with a super PAC funded by his father. And she challenged him at the debate in Wadsworth on the claim that she inherited her Statehouse seat from her father.
“He has insulted every single voter that put me in the Statehouse to represent them,” Hagan said. “He has underestimated their desire and their knowledge of their legislator, their representative and the person fighting for them.”
Gonzalez stuck largely to his biography as the successful son of Cuban immigrants who supports President Trump’s call to end DACA, build a border wall and allow only immigrants with certain skills into the country.
“You’re going to serve our national security interests and our economic interests,” Gonzalez said. “That’s what merit means to me and I’m vehemently against amnesty of any kind.”
Hagan, too, supports the wall, and she’s running as the self-proclaimed Trump candidate. And as the most gun-rights candidate, too, noting that her husband gave her an AR-15 for her birthday.
But the third candidate on the stage, Dr. Michael Grusenmeyer, set himself apart on both immigration and guns. And he cautioned that voters “are adamant about doing something to protect our kids in schools. Unless you get ahead of this issue, I think we’re going to be in big trouble in November.”
His warning drew only tepid applause.
The 16th District is one of just two open seats in Ohio, the other being the 12th District in Central Ohio. Rep. Jim Renacci is leaving the 16th District to run for U.S. Senate.