***Related video: Closing statements from the debate***
CLEVELAND (WJW) – Candidates Tim Ryan and JD Vance took the stage for their first and only statewide debate at FOX 8 News Monday evening.
They’re battling for Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s seat, which will be decided when voters head to the polls in less than a month.
The candidates sparred on a wide range of topics, including the U.S. economy, foreign policy, abortion and LGBTQ rights.
Here are four of the top moments from the debate.
Access to abortion
One of the major dividing topics during the debate was abortion access, which a recent Emerson College poll found was the second most important topic for Ohio voters.
Ryan said he supports reestablishing Roe v. Wade.
“That was established law for 50 years and that we weren’t having all the chaos we’re having now. We read at least a couple articles every week of young people, underage girls who have been raped or women who have had significant problems with their pregnancy not be able to get help in the state,” Ryan said. “This is the largest governmental overreach in our lifetime.”
Vance, when asked if he supported a Republican bill in the Senate to ban abortions after 15 weeks nationwide, said he supports minimum national standards.
“Ohio’s going to want to have different abortion laws than California, than Texas. I think Ohio should have that right,” Vance said. “Some minimal national standard is totally fine with me.”
Things heated up when Ryan went on the offensive.
“We can’t ignore the level of extremism that we’re hearing from JD Vance on this position,” Ryan said. “If you get raped, JD Vance and others are going to say you have to have that baby? State-mandated pregnancies for a rape victim? That is so far out of the mainstream it’s not even funny.”
Vance was given the chance to respond, the conversation turning to a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped and impregnated who then had to leave the state for an abortion.
“I have always believed in reasonable exceptions, this is a misrepresentation of my view… I absolutely think the 10-year-old girl… is an incredibly tragic situation,” Vance said. “I’ve got a 9-year-old girl. I cannot imagine what that’s like… I’ve said repeatedly on record that I think that girl should be able to get an abortion if she and her family so choose to do so.”
He also went on the offensive.
“Why was a 10-year-old girl raped in our community, raped in our state in the first place?” Vance said. “The thing they never mention is that poor girl was raped by an illegal alien. Somebody that should have never been in this state in the first place. [Ryan] voted so many times against border wall funding… If you had done your job, she never would have been raped in the first place.”
Tim Ryan on Biden rerunning
After a discussion on whether or not Ryan believes President Joe Biden is to blame for inflation in the U.S., a follow-up question asked if the congressman wants the president to rerun in 2024.
“No, I’ve been very clear,” Ryan said. “I’d like to see a generational change. Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, the president, everybody. We need a new generation of leadership.”
Fentanyl and border control
The debate also got heated during the topic of drugs and immigration.
“I’ve always supported increased funding for border patrol, I started the Border Technology Caucus to figure out how we can use technology that we have in the United States to prevent this fentanyl that’s coming in from China, from Mexico, into the country,” said Ryan.
Vance said the subject is personal to him.
“My mom struggled with addiction for a big chunk of my childhood. I’m very proud to say she’s been clean and sober for seven years,” Vance said. “We got that seven years clean because the poison that’s coming into the country, thank God, 15 years ago was not nearly as dangerous as the poison coming into the country today.”
“Tim Ryan has done nothing to stop the flow of fentanyl. He talks about wanting to support a stronger border. He talks about wanting to be bipartisan and get things done, but Tim, you’ve been in Congress for 20 years and the border problem has gotten worse,” Vance said.
“We have a lot that needs to get done… I’m here to speak the truth. We do have more work to do which is why I have a resolution to designate fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction, which is why I vote for more border patrol, why I vote for a barrier, why I vote for technology… So that’s what I have done,” Ryan said.
Decriminalization of marijuana
During the rapid fire questions near the end of the debate, the topic shifted to the decriminalization of marijuana.
“I support legalization of marijuana. I think the fact that we spend tens of billions of dollars putting people in prison for marijuana crimes is ridiculous. We should legalize it, we should tax it, we should use it to fund our schools and we should make sure we retrain all these people who had their lives destroyed by going to prison for a marijuana crime,” Ryan said.
“I think it should be a states issue,” Vance said. “I don’t want anybody going to prison for smoking a joint. That’s not at all what I want to do. We’ve got to be careful here not to be soft on crime because a lot of times you’ll hear someone thrown in prison for smoking a joint, I don’t think that’s a good idea, but that’s just true on paper. If you look at the underlying charge you’ll see it wasn’t just that they smoked a joint, it’s that they smoked a joint and beat an elderly woman over the head with a pistol. Those people should go to prison.”