Sep 22, 2022 - Politics

The great Ohio debate (or not)

The candidates stand on stage during closing remarks of Ohio's U.S. Senate Republican Primary debate, Monday, March 28, 2022, at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
Ohio's U.S. Senate Republican primary debate at Central State University in March. Photo: Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch via AP

With 47 days until the election, Ohioans may not get a chance to see their candidates for governor and U.S. Senate debate.

The latest: According to yesterday's Ohio Debate Commission (ODC) statement, Republican U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance and Gov. Mike DeWine have declined invitations to debate.

  • Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley and Senate candidate Tim Ryan have accepted.

By the numbers: A USA Today Network/Suffolk University poll reported 84% of Ohioans want these candidates to debate.

Why it matters: "Informed voters are the engine of our representative democracy … debates are a key way that voters come to decide who they will vote for," Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, tells Axios.

State of play: DeWine has previously participated in debates, including in his first run for governor in 2018, though he declined to debate in the primary earlier this year.

Between the lines: The Cincinnati Enquirer reported ODC's executive director Jill Miller Zimon previously ran as a Democrat for the Ohio House of Representatives.

  • Zimon contributed $250 to Ryan's campaign in 2014 and has not contributed to any campaign since 2018.

What they're saying: "It would be absurd to participate in a debate overseen by a liberal Tim Ryan donor who has repeatedly and publicly smeared Republicans — Ohioans deserve fair, impartial debates," a spokesperson for the Vance campaign told Axios in an email.

The other side: "Tim Ryan remains as eager as ever to debate J.D. Vance, but in order for that to happen, J.D. needs to stop hiding from debate organizers and trying to back out of forums both candidates have already committed to," said Ryan's campaign manager Dave Chase in a statement.

  • "This is a specious attempt to smear an organization that has done nothing other than insist on fair debates where facts and the truth are respected," the ODC board of directors president told Fox.
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