Ohio Republican Senate hopeful compares rival to Liz Cheney in debate

Ohio Republican Senate hopeful Bernie Moreno, a Trump-endorsed candidate, equated his rival, state Sen. Matt Dolan (R), to former Wyoming lawmaker and Trump critic Liz Cheney when asked about Jan. 6 during the GOP debate Monday night. 

In an hour-long showing hosted by Cleveland-based Fox 8, candidates clashed over government funding, bombing Mexican cartels and Ukraine, while trading political blows to inch closer as their party nominee in March and take out three-term incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) come November. 

Both Brown and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mt.) hold one of the most vulnerable seats in the Senate, according to Cook Political Report’s 2024 Senate Race Ratings. Both are targeted by Republicans who are looking to flip the upper chamber. The GOP’s goal became slightly easier when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced his retirement from the Senate after completing his current term, leaving the seat to likely flip red.  

During the portion on Jan. 6, moderators Joe Toohey of Fox 8 and Colleen Marshall of NBC4 accused Moreno and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose of flip-flopping on their rhetoric regarding the attack on the Capitol. Back then, both candidates condemned the destruction and violence that played out. Recently, both have called some of the people charged in the act “political” prisoners. 

Dolan went after Moreno over his recent rhetoric over Jan. 6, while doubling down that it was “a bad day.” 

“We just heard an absolute political phony answer,” Dolan said. “He’s trying to reinvent himself. Jan. 6 was a bad day, and I said it then.” 

Moreno, a former car dealer who has raked in heavyweight endorsements ranging from Trump, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Club for Growth, an influential deep-pocketed anti-tax group, went after Dolan, calling him “Liz Cheney” and accused him of peddling “liberal talking points.” 

“I mean, if you want Liz Cheney to represent your United States Senator from Ohio, here’s your choice, because that’s where his position comes from,” Moreno said. “The reality is, Matt [Dolan], it’s sad to see you repeating left-wing, liberal talking points.” 

Dolan, who was aggressive all night, continued his digs at Moreno, referencing lawsuits that the car dealership tycoon dealt with in Ohio and Massachusets.   

“And Bernie we’d learned this week, I don’t know if we can trust you,” Dolan said. “Your employees trusted you to follow a court order and do not destroy documents that help them in their case against you. But what did you do? You shredded those documents because it helped Bernie Marino, not the employees. This is a matter of trust.” 

Ukraine funding was another segment where candidates separated. 

Moreno said that the U.S. should stop funding Ukraine, while LaRose vowed to not allow for “another penny” to go to Ukraine until the southern border is “secured.” 

Dolan warned that if the U.S. does not give ammunition, weaponry and aid to Ukraine, “Ohio boys and girls will be fighting Russia and Poland, Western Europe or the Baltics.” 

While each of the contenders hinted at being in favor of restrictions when it comes to abortion, none of them gave a direct answer if they would stand behind a federal abortion ban. 

On the topic of immigration, LaRose reiterated his stance to “kill the cartels,” a slogan that was shared in recent ads supporting his campaign. 

“These cartels are killing over 200 Americans a day with the fentanyl that they’re bringing into this country,” LaRose said. “We know that this comes from China mixed together in Mexico, we must define these cartels as foreign terrorist organizations and use the full force of the US military and the US federal government to kill them so that they can’t kill our fellow Americans.” 

Moreno slammed LaRose’s answer as “neo-con rhetoric,” pledging that he would push for the U.S. to work with Mexico.  

“We’re going to work with Mexico to make certain that they understand it’s in their best interest to have us help them wipe out the drug cartels,” Moreno said.

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