Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel squared off Monday in the first of three debates slated in the hotly contested Ohio Senate race that’s being watched nationally.
The candidates weren’t shy about attacking each other, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer
, as they covered a wide range of controversial issues ranging from abortion to the debt crisis.
For his part, the 35-year-old Mandel, a former city councilman and state legislator who was elected state treasurer two years ago, sought to cast Brown, 59, as a career politician with a failed record.
Brown, likewise, went after his younger GOP rival as a "too ambitious" career politician, who can't be trusted.
“You’ve had 20 years to try and solve these problems,” Mandel said of Brown, referring to high gas prices and college tuitions, among other economic issues. “That is a record of failure.”
Brown shot back: “Everyone knows Josh Mandel can’t be trusted to fight for your job because he’s too busy running for his next job.”
Beyond the name calling, Monday’s debate showed sharp differences between the two on topics important to the state and nation, including economic policy and the auto industry bailout.
About 1,300 people were on hand for the packed debate, during which a panel of three reporters asked the candidates questions. The candidates also took questions from the audience.
On the auto bailout, Mandel said he would have opposed the plan because it brought pension cuts for salaried workers at a former subsidiary of General Motors in Ohio. But Brown credited the bailout with saving Ohio jobs tied to the industry.
On abortion, Mandel said he believes the landmark decision Roe v. Wade should be struck down.
Brown, an abortion-rights supporter, said Mandel's views on the issue were even more extreme than Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's because the Senate hopeful does not believe in exceptions for rape or incest.
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