Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown is running for re-election this year against Ohio Treasurer, Josh Mandel, a Republican. Widely regarded as the most important Senate race in the country, the outcome of this race will help determine who has control of the Senate, where Democrats now hold a four-seat majority.
Mandel, 33, from Lyndhurst, is a Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq. Prior to being elected Ohio treasurer in 2010, he was a state representative.
During Brown’s six-year tenure in the U.S. Senate, he was named one of the most liberal senators by the National Journal.
The battle between these two candidates started in December and has been characterized by aggressive comments from both. In an Oct. 16 debate, Mandel claimed, “[Brown] lied to the people of Ohio.” Brown countered with, “Simply, Josh Mandel is a politician who cannot be trusted.”\
The differences between the two candidates are extreme. In a phone interview, Justin Barasky, spokesperson for Brown, described the candidates’ biggest areas of difference, particularly their positions on the auto rescue. Brown was an early supporter of the auto rescue, while Mandel opposed it and called Brown “un-American” for his support. Some economists have credited the auto bailout with saving the American auto industry and adding many new jobs to Ohio. Others have charged that the government should use tax dollars to rescue businesses that do not remain competitive.
After initially agreeing to an email interview, Mandel’s campaign spokesman failed to respond to this reporter’s questions.
Another difference between the two candidates is their position on reproductive rights. Brown is pro-choice, and Mandel is a social conservative who, as state legislator in 2011, supported a proposed law that would have made it illegal to have an abortion if the fetus had a detectable heart beat.
The two candidates also disagree on Obama’s health care reform bill. Brown voted for it. Brown has stated his opposition and said that the bill was forced on Americans. Among other things, Obamacare prevents insurance companies from dropping coverage for customers if they get sick and requires insurers to cover children of policy holders until age 26.
While Brown has been a member of the Senate, he has pushed for investment in all forms of energy. Barasky said he supports “anything he thinks is an emerging industry.” According to Mandel’s biography on his website, he is an advocate for the responsible exploration of America’s natural resources. He has stated his support for the controversial practice of fracking, which is used to extract natural gas from underground shale deposits and which some opponents believe taints water supplies.
On the topic of education, Mandel supports school choice, including providing vouchers to help parents pay tuition at private schools. In a recent speech, he said, “Whether it’s home-schooling, private schools, public schools or charter schools, I believe the choice of what’s best for children should be in the hands of their parents — not some bureaucrat in Columbus.” Brown has focused on making college accessible to all students. He said, “I will continue to work for increased student aid in the form of grants and low–interest loans so that all students are able to achieve the dream of a college education.”
Barasky also mentioned the candidates’ ratings on the fact-checking website PolitiFact. On the site, 12 of Mandel’s 55 fact-checked statements were deemed true, mostly true or half true. Twenty-four percent of Mandel’s 55 statements were dubbed “pants on fire,” or flat-out lies. Brown earned a 4 percent “pants on fire” rating and a 15 percent “false” rating. Sixteen of Brown’s 26 fact-checked statements rated true or mostly true.
Asked via email about Mandel’s PolitiFact rating, Mandel’s communications director Travis Considine gave no reply.
A version of this article appeared in print on 31 October 2012, on page 2 of The Shakerite.