In Ohio’s U.S. Senate race, incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown has a double-digit lead in most polls over his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth).
Brown is vying for his third term in office in a campaign that has been bitter and personal at times, while Renacci is still working to convince voters to consider his campaign. Both candidates were asked for their views on some of the most pressing issues facing the nation and Ohio.
Brown sits in a small office inside the headquarters of the Ohio Democratic Party, making phone calls to supporters. It’s something he’s been doing a lot these days, as he continues to hammer home one of his key messages: that he is fighting for middle class Ohioans.
It’s actually a very similar message to what Renacci is taking to voters. But the two candidates have very different opinions of how to help the middle class – including their opposing stances on President Donald Trump’s tax reforms.
Brown says the Republican-led Congress passed bills that do more for big businesses and not enough for middle class Ohioans.
“While the president always brags about the economy doing well, the stock market is up, there’s economic growth, but the growth has not gone to working families. It has not gone to the middle class,” Brown says.
Instead, Brown proposed his own tax measures.
“One was the Patriot Corporation Act, which simply says if you pay your workers well, provide good benefits, health and retirement and you produce in the United States, you get a lower tax rate,” he says. “The other is the Working Families Tax Relief Act, which focuses on middle class tax cuts.”
A big part of Renacci’s platform is aligning himself with the Trump administration. He says the middle class is already seeing the benefits of the tax cuts Congress passed.
“Everything the president’s done in the last two years is working for this country,” Renacci says. “Helping small business owners, it’s affecting almost 80 percent of Americans. As I travel the state of Ohio, they say, ‘Thank you for more money in their paycheck, thank you for business opportunities to expand business,’ so in the end this is what’s helping grow the economy. This is why we have a 4.3 percent growth rate.”
Renacci says the one issue where he believes voters will find the starkest of contrasts between him and his opponent is immigration. Renacci wants to see a wall built along the U.S.-Mexico border, strengthen the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and eliminate sanctuary cities.
“And I think in the end, what we need to do is change our immigration laws so people have a path, whether you’ve been born here, whether you’ve come here through illegal parents, as a DACA citizen, whatever,” Renacci says.
Brown agrees that the U.S. needs to secure its border. He, along with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), supported the INTERDICT Act which gives border police more tools to stop drugs from making it into the country.
“But you can’t deport 13 million people,” Brown says. “You do a path to citizenship where they earn it. They pay taxes. They pay penalties when necessary, when it’s the right thing to do. But the thing you don’t do, and Republicans are not speaking out on this and aren’t pushing the president, is you don’t take small children and rip them away from their families.”
Brown here references the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border, which the president later rescinded.
Polls have consistently said the most important issue to Ohio voters this election is health care. For the U.S. Senate, that can boil down to where Congress goes with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Brown is an ardent supporter of the ACA and points out Republicans have voted 20 times to repeal the law.
“Right now, 200,000 Ohioans are getting opioid treatment because of the Affordable Care Act,” Brown says. “First, do no harm. Don’t take that away from people. But the other part is, the two dozen times they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act says to insurance companies, ‘Yeah, you can deny coverage to someone who has a pre-existing condition and right now, in Ohio, more than half of the adults have a pre-existing condition.”
Renacci has been a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act ever since he decided to run for Congress in 2010. And he says as it stands right now, the health care system is broken and that premiums are too high.
“We need to bring competition back into play,” Renacci says. “We need to eliminate a one-size-fits-all health care plan. And we need to quit scaring people like Sherrod Brown does by saying we’re gonna get rid of pre-existing conditions – nobody wants to get rid of pre-existing conditions, not Republicans nor Democrats. What we want to do though is have a health care system that works that includes pre-existing conditions, and caps, and including kids being on the program until age 26.”
Other Major Issues
When it comes to college affordability, Renacci wants to look at controlling student debt to make sure loans are reasonable and geared towards exactly what the student needs. As he sees it, too many students are getting loans in large amounts they don’t need and without enough oversight.
“We should make sure that we’re looking at that college debt and just not writing open checks,” Renacci says.
Brown believes the state needs to invest more in its public universities to make them more affordable on the front end. He says Congress needs to put in more money to make sure students can attend college without having to take on crushing debt.
“We need to invest more in Pell Grants and Perkins and more of those programs that help middle class kids go to college if they want,” Brown says. “But those same loans should be available for trade schools if they want to be a diesel mechanic or for community college.”
Brown is also against abortion restrictions and supports additional gun regulations, while Renacci opposes both abortion and additional gun regulations.
There’s one thing the two tend to agree on: Trump’s trade tariffs. Both believe the U.S. needs to be tough on China when it comes to trade issues.