Home Candidates Columbus Metropolitan Club hosts virtual debate between Rep. Steve Stivers, Joel Newby

Columbus Metropolitan Club hosts virtual debate between Rep. Steve Stivers, Joel Newby

14 min read

Ohio’s 15th Congressional District candidates Republican Rep. Steve Stivers and Democratic challenger Joel Newby debated during a virtual livestream early Friday afternoon.

Chief Content Director at WOSU Public Media Mike Thompson hosted the debate, which covered a wide range of topics, including the pandemic, healthcare, taxes, climate change and social justice.

The coronavirus pandemic

Thompson asked the candidates about how best to combat the public health crisis  COVID-19 poses — either rely on personal responsibility to protect the vulnerable or government issued mandates for masks and business closures. 

“I think people should wear a mask; they should social distance,” Stivers said. “I’d like to see the CDC come up with a more national framework. The other interesting and problematic thing was that we saw differences between the states.”

Newby agreed with the need for masks and social distancing, but questioned Stivers on why he did not act on his beliefs. 

“I’m kind of wondering what’s going on, why we’re seeing a bunch of talk and no action when it comes to what he’s actually doing,” Newby said. “My focus would be on conquering the virus, making sure that we can instill trust back into the federal government, the FDA, to make sure that we have a vaccine that we can use.” 

Thompson pressed Stivers on his campaign website, which currently reads in bold red letters, “If you are not sick, you do not need to wear a face mask.”

Stivers claimed to be unaware this was on his website.

“I didn’t know that was on my site, that’s probably old advice,” Stivers said. “I believe people who are not sick should wear a mask. I believe it’s protecting each other. I’ll get that fixed on my website.”


Thompson asked about the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning the Affordable Care Act and how people with pre-existing conditions could be ensured access to affordable health care.

Stivers said he is the co-sponsor of a bill that ensures individuals with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable coverage no matter what. He said he wants to  make drugs more affordable for patients.

“I’m also the lead sponsor of a bill called the Raise Act that will increase the amount of money people can put in a flexible spending account and allow to roll over at the end of the year,” Stivers said. 

Money is put into a flexible spending account that is used to pay for out-of-pocket health care costs that are not taxed. Stivers said flexible spending accounts were helpful because many people have insurance cards, but can’t afford to go to the doctor.

Newby was asked why he does not support Medicare for All but does support a single-payer health care system, another form of universal healthcare where a public system covers the costs of essential healthcare for its residents. He described Medicare for All as “fixing a truck” whereas a single-payer system would be like “buying a brand new truck.”

“A single-payer system would advocate for the government to pay for general procedures and so forth,” Newby said. “I look at the Medicare system how it currently stands, and I see all the holes in them.”

Newby said he believes that we do need to protect people with pre-existing conditions, especially given the potential lasting respiratory effects of COVID-19.


Newby was asked about how he felt about the Trump tax cuts given that before the pandemic, unemployment hit historically low levels and wages increased.

“Did the tax cuts make our economy stronger or just appear stronger?” Newby asked rhetorically. “There was a pandemic, and by weakening the funds that our federal government was able to take advantage of by not taxing the wealthy and making them pay their fair share, it actually puts us in a weaker spot to deal with large pandemics like this.”

Newby said the wealthy should be paying the taxes that go to infrastructure. 

“That tax cut increased wage inequality,” Newby said, “It might have been good for the people at the top, but that’s not good for the people where I’m from.”

Stivers was asked about his support behind the tax cuts, despite the national deficit nearly doubling since Obama’s presidency under Trump’s Administration.

“They had unemployment at 3.5% nationally, wage growth 3.2%, economic growth almost 4%. It would have cut the deficit if it would have time to continue to grow the economy. Instead, the pandemic hit,” Stivers said.

Stivers said there were three ways to cut the deficit: to cut spending, to increase taxes and to grow the economy.

Climate Change

When the topic of climate change was addressed, Newby was asked to define clean energy and explain his proposed plans to run on clean energy by 2050.

“What I deem as clean energy would be making sure that we’re not using fossil fuels or fuel sources that, once we use them up, they’re done,” Newby said. “I’m focused on solar energy farms. In fact, District 15 is a great place to expand solar farms here in the state of Ohio because we do have access to large fields that could actually take in that kind of development.”

Newby mentioned the possibility of wind power as a form of sustainable energy. He also said he was against nuclear power, which Stivers supports.

“I think natural gas is an important bridging technology. We should continue to invest in battery technology, so that the wind and solar that Joel talks about could actually be used when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining,” Stivers replied. 

Stivers mentioned he also wants to focus on using negative emissions technology to remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere. 

Policing and Systemic Racism 

When asked about systemic racism, both candidates agreed it exists and is a problem that must be addressed.

Stivers said he believes police and economic reform is needed to allow everyone to achieve the American dream. He said he is also working on improving minority homeownership. 

Stivers touted his bipartisan work with democratic Reps. Lacy Clay and Emannuel Cleaver of Missouri on the issue, as well as his support of the Justice Act, proposed by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

Stivers said that the Justice Act would help reform police by banning chokeholds, including de-escalation training, and making sure there was “a forum for information about no-knock warrants and abuse of force.” 

He also said he believes provisions should be added to the bill so the Department of Justice receives information about multiple allegations of use of force.

Thompson asked Newby about his opinion of defunding the police. Newby responded by saying he wants more money put into drug reform and more focus on public mental health rather than policing.

“I want to see less policing of that and more of a mental health aspect of making sure that we get the reforms going on,” Newby said. “We’d have to get people in there that would be trained in those fields to really take care of the issue and suggest to the judge an appropriate method of handling the situation.”

Stivers was then asked if he felt that defunding the police was a needed follow-up on his mentioned reforms.

“Well, I don’t think defunding the police is the way to do it, but I sympathize with the frustrations that people have that they don’t think their voices are heard,” Stivers said. “I hope we can target it a little more toward getting people the help they need. And I do agree with Joel, we have a mental health crisis in this country, and I feel sorry for our police who are put in a really difficult situation every day.” 

The entire debate between Stivers and Newby can be watched on the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Youtube channel

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