Ohio Debate Commission Announces Gubernatorial, U.S. Senate and Chief Justice Debates, But Republicans Haven't Committed to Participating

It used to be expected, but Republican opposition is now familiar

click to enlarge Mar 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; Ohio’s U.S. Senate Republican candidates stand on stage before the start of their primary debate at Central State University. - Photo by Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission.
Photo by Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission.
Mar 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; Ohio’s U.S. Senate Republican candidates stand on stage before the start of their primary debate at Central State University.

The Ohio Debate Commission announced its plans Monday for the U.S. Senate, governor, and chief justice of the state supreme court races. The Democrats in all three contests plan to attend. The Republicans haven’t signed on yet.

The commission’s schedule includes a gubernatorial debate Oct. 10 and a U.S. Senate debate Oct. 12. They plan to host the chief justice forum on one of those dates as well. They’ll hold all three events at the Akron-Summit County public library’s main auditorium.

The commission’s announcement describes intense interest and lengthy planning. Almost two dozen media outlets around the state want to carry the events. Organizers began reaching out to campaigns in mid-May — just weeks after the primary election.

“In an election cycle where voters have indicated how concerned they are about threats to democracy,” debate commission executive director Jill Zimon said, “candidates’ participation in high quality debates — and providing that content to as many Ohioans as possible — is more critical than ever.”

“Our record shows our capacity to reach millions of Ohio voters with this important content,” she continued.

In addition to providing a public service for voters, organizers will work with the University of Akron to provide educational programming for high schoolers and college students.

Noticing a trend?

The announcement notes every candidate has previously participated in debates or forums hosted by the commission. But Republican opposition is familiar.

During this year’s GOP primary debate, some candidates bristled at moderator Karen Kasler fact checking their false statements. Josh Mandel and eventual nominee J.D. Vance both carved out time in their closing statements to complain about topics they didn’t discuss.

“I note that I was asked about Marjorie Taylor Green and Rick Scott, but I wasn’t asked about abortion, the life of the unborn,” Vance said at the time. “I wasn’t asked about the Second Amendment. I also wasn’t asked about the big technology firms, and those firms are controlling what we can say and even what we can think in this country.”

That hostility fits into a broader national pattern. This April the Republican National Committee voted unanimously to withdraw from the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates over perceived bias.

Gov. Mike DeWine, J.D. Vance and Justice Sharon Kennedy’s campaigns all failed to respond to requests for comment about whether they plan to participate come October. As for what happens if none of them show?

“We are always thinking about options,” Zimon said in an emailed statement.

Originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal. Republished here with permission.
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