Home Election 2020 The Counter Opinion: Ohio’s 15th Congressional District debate reflections

The Counter Opinion: Ohio’s 15th Congressional District debate reflections

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The debate between incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Stivers and Democratic candidate Joel Newby for U.S. representative of Ohio’s 15th Congressional District occurred on Friday, Oct. 16. We asked our opinion writers about the winner and the loser, memorable points, the moderator and how this debate differed from the previous national debates. Contributing are Bryce Hoehn, a senior political science major and Charlotte Caldwell, a junior journalism major.

Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.

Which candidate was the winner of the debate?

Bryce: Newby was the clear winner of the debate. While Stivers’ answers were generally more moderate compared to other prominent Republicans, such as his acknowledgment of climate change and systemic racism, Newby both offered more substantial answers and called out Stivers for his lack of action on these issues while in office. Stivers’ appearance as moderate compared to Trump also seems meaningless when his voting record aligns with the president 94.7% of the time. Newby effectively challenged Stivers’ leadership by pointing toward his inconsistency on mask-wearing such as referencing campaign photos where he did not wear a mask and messages on his website claiming that you do not need a mask if you are not sick. While Stivers admitted he was wrong, Newby still won on this front for taking the virus seriously throughout his campaign. Overall, Stivers provided a more moderate argument compared to Trump, but his words mean very little when they are inconsistent with his work while in office, which Newby frequently attacked him on.

Charlotte: Newby won the debate with his answers as well as with an air of superiority, like he was a seasoned politician who has experienced many debates. It probably helps that Newby has experience in law, but Stivers is currently serving his fifth term in Congress, so he should not have floundered as much as he did on rebuttals. Newby posed clear stances on the issues and spoke directly to the audience, as it seems most Democrats do in debates, all while attacking Stivers’ reputation in the process. It was an effective strategy, as it caused Stivers to spend most of his time defending himself instead of posing new points.

What were the most memorable points made by both candidates?

Bryce: For both candidates, the most memorable moments were their responses to healthcare and climate change. Newby stated that while he does not support Medicare for All, he still supports some form of a single-payer system because he believes expansions to Medicare would be necessary before everyone could be placed on it. This distinction seems unnecessary as most popular Medicare for All bills already provide expansions to Medicare. If there are any additional expansions Newby has in mind that are not present, then he could simply propose an amendment rather than running against the bill entirely.

As for climate change, Newby argued that he does not support the Green New Deal, as it is currently just a non-binding resolution, but he would support similar climate legislation. He used that distinction to avoid questions over the hard truths of addressing climate change. For example, when Stivers attacked him with the accusation that the Green New Deal would kill 100,000 Ohio jobs without reference to a source, Newby simply responded that the non-binding resolution could not cause job loss. While technically true, it does not answer the broader question of what will happen to fossil fuel jobs if we pursue similar climate legislation. At some point, any worthwhile climate proposal will lead to job loss in the fossil fuel sector, so I would have liked to see him level with those voters and explain how his plan will provide for them.

While I wish Newby would take a firmer stance on these progressive topics, Stivers had significantly worse responses. Even Newby’s more moderate commitment to expanding the Affordable Care Act and his slightly vague but promising climate policies are far preferable to Stivers’ commitment to kicking millions off of their healthcare by repealing the act and the devastating consequences from his lack of action on climate change.

Charlotte: Newby’s most memorable point is when he said, “Once you get ahead, you reach back and pull the next person up.” This quote seems to sum up his whole platform and his thoughts about rich people in the U.S. Newby is clearly for big government with his ideas like increasing taxes for the 1% to use for infrastructure, better internet and schooling and clean energy by 2050. But with all of these lofty ideals, he said he does not support the Green New Deal, which was surprising. Another point he made was that he did not support packing the Supreme Court, which he answered without hesitation or deferring to another answer. At least one candidate can answer this question clearly, unlike those at the presidential level. On another note, when asked if protesters and Trump supporters getting different treatment for not wearing masks was a double standard, he skirted around the question, but basically said he did not think it was. This was a bad move on his part, and he should have reinforced his earlier statements that everyone should be wearing masks no matter what.

Stivers’ most memorable point was on the discussion of police brutality. He said he believes that systemic racism exists, and to combat it the country needs police and economic reform. He also supports the JUSTICE Act, which would ban chokeholds and implement de-escalation training. He agreed with Newby on the question about defunding the police when Newby said that there needs to be a greater emphasis on the mental health crisis in the U.S., which the JUSTICE Act also covers. 

Did the moderator, Mike Thompson, do his job well? How was he similar and different to the moderators of the national debates?

Bryce: For the most part, Thompson performed his job similarly to the national moderators, but he had the option to disable microphones if needed. I am not sure how much this says about the moderator versus the rules set by the respective debate commissions, but having that option at his disposal — even though he did not need it — makes him a slightly better moderator in my eyes.

Charlotte: Thompson did a good job of staying in the middle with his questions and did not come across as biased toward one side. He also made sure to follow up with the candidates if he felt that the original question was not addressed fully. This is different from presidential moderator Chris Wallace, who seemed to favor more Republican-worded questions, and vice presidential moderator Susan Page, who would not criticize the candidates if they failed to answer the question. This debate was finished in less than an hour compared to the national debates, which were an hour and a half each, but the audience probably got more relevant information out of this debate with the help of Thompson.

What were the similarities and differences between this debate and the previous national debates?

Bryce: Overall, both candidates did a far better job of answering the questions posed by the moderator and abiding by the rules of the debate. The same two-minute answer and 30-second rebuttal format were used here, but the candidates were able to utilize that time far more effectively without going over the time limits. Generally, the debate seemed far more informative and relevant to voters compared to the infotainment nature of the national debates. Since the debate was broadcasted over YouTube, there was even a live chat where viewers could communicate with each other. This would never work on a national scale, but with the smaller audience it worked surprisingly well, and it was interesting for me to see how other viewers were reacting.

Charlotte: Although criticisms were made by each candidate of their opponent, they did not find the need to talk over each other and civilly responded in their 30-second time frame. The topics discussed were generally the same as the national debates, and the candidates had similar responses to the presidential and vice presidential candidates. This debate showed that local politics can sometimes be more important than national politics, and a voter can learn the same information about politics without having an anxiety attack in the process.

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