YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The already hostile Senate race in Ohio got even nastier on Monday as Democratic Representative Tim Ryan and Republican JD Vance clashed over racist rhetoric and hurled personal slurs.
In their final debate before the Nov. 8 election, tensions peaked near the end of their hour on stage, when one of the moderators quizzed the candidates on the “great replacement” theory.
The conspiracy theory, which has found a home on the far-right periphery, basically states that a cabal of Jewish-led liberals is trying to take power by replacing white voters with non-whites by all necessary means, including immigration and interracial marriage.
The suspect in the fatal supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York, in May, who is accused of targeting black people, is said to have embraced the theory. Vance asserted during his campaign that Democrats are pushing liberal immigration policies to “replace” voters and win the election, sparking accusations that he also supports the theory.
“That big replacement theory was the motivation for shooting in Buffalo, where this shooter had all these great replacement theory writings that JD Vance agrees with,” Ryan said.
Vance, who has three children with his Native American wife, was visibly angry and fired back at Ryan.
“Here’s exactly what happens when the media and people like Tim Ryan accuse me of engaging in some great replacement theory,” Vance said. “What’s happening is my own kids – my biracial kids – are being attacked by scumbags online and in person, because you’re so desperate for political power that you’ll blame me, the father of three beautiful biracial babies, for indulging in racism. We are fed up. You can believe in a border without being racist.
“I know you’ve been around for 20 years, Tim, and I know it’s a great gig, but you’re so desperate not to have a real job that you’re going to slander me and my family,” he said. he added.
Ryan, with an amused expression on his face, replied, “I think I touched a nerve with that guy.”
The five-minute exchange followed what had been largely a civil, albeit hard-hitting, debate at Stambaugh Auditorium, near the Youngstown State University campus, in the middle of the congressional district that Ryan has represented for nearly two decades. WFMJ, the local NBC affiliate, moderated the discussion.
Recent polls have indicated a tight race, with either Ryan or Vance’s leads falling within the margins of error. The tight contest just three weeks from Election Day surprised many who saw former President Donald Trump’s two comfortable wins here as a sign that Ohio had become a reliable Republican state.
Ryan, who briefly ran for president in 2020, has veered into the focus of his Senate campaign, making overtures to moderate Republicans and independents. Vance, a venture capitalist widely known for writing the best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” has repeatedly attacked Ryan as a career politician whose loyalty lies with President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The line of attack has been a staple of Vance’s messaging and tens of millions of dollars worth of television ads promoting his candidacy.
“This increase in the price of energy that people see at the pump, that they see in their utility bills, that our farmers see when they pay more for diesel – that was a direct result of the policies that were put in place. by Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and 100% supported by Tim Ryan,” Vance said in response to the debate’s opening question, on inflation.
Ryan, who once challenged Pelosi in a House leadership race, recovered by referring to Vance’s venture capital days in San Francisco, where Pelosi lives. Ryan and the Democrats attempted to cast Vance as an Ohio expat turned coastal elite.
“JD, you keep talking about Nancy Pelosi,” Ryan said. “If you want to race against Nancy Pelosi, go back to San Francisco and race against Nancy Pelosi.”
But Vance returned to the Pelosi talking point by bringing up a Ryan’s Announcement which features Ryan’s wife opening a bottle of wine and shedding light on their disagreements at home.
“It’s actually a pretty funny TV commercial… where he says he only agrees with his own wife 70% of the time,” Vance said. “Yet he votes and agrees with Nancy Pelosi 100% of the time. That must make things a little awkward in the Ryan household.
The debate then turned to Vance’s partisan loyalties when one of the moderators, longtime Youngstown political reporter Bertram de Souza, brought up how Ryan had called Vance in the previous debate “a- – Trump’s kisser. The line is a paraphrase of Trump’s remark about Vance at a recent rally.
Trump “told a joke at a rally based on a fake New York Times story, and Tim Ryan decided to run his entire campaign on it,” Vance said before trying to land another Pelosi punch.
De Souza insisted: “Did you take that as a joke?”
Vance replied that he knows Trump “very well” and that he “doesn’t mind.”
“Everyone there took it as a joke,” Vance said, before returning to Pelosi.
The round trips took about 10 minutes. Three of the most pronounced words at that time: “Nancy”, “Pelosi” and “a–“.
“I don’t have to hate Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden,” Ryan said. “We need to shift the political discourse in this country from hate and anger and division to love and compassion and forgiveness and a little grace. And all I’m saying is, I don’t have to hate her.”