COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Nearly one month from the midterm elections, U.S. Senate candidates Republican J.D. Vance and Democrat Tim Ryan are in a statistical dead heat. NBC4’s Natalie Fahmy spoke to each on their stances on law enforcement, the southern border, abortion and the economy.
Vance said one of his top priorities, if elected, will be expanding law enforcement.
“We need more police officers,” Vance said. “And we have to better fund these guys and make sure they have the pension support, wage support that they need.”
Ryan said he also thinks more cops are necessary.
“I’ve been not only for funding the police,” Ryan said. “I have helped fund the police to the tune of $500 million here in Ohio.”
Ryan said, while he does support law enforcement, he does think the criminal justice system needs to change. In 2019, Ryan called the criminal justice system racist, and stands by those comments.
“This is not talking about the cops; this is talking about system that now has millions of people in prison for non-violent crimes around marijuana,” Ryan said. “That’s stupid, I can’t think of a worse way to spend $50 billion in the country than to put people in prison for marijuana crimes.”
Ryan said he wants to shift back to more justice and fairness within the criminal justice system.
“You legalize things like marijuana, and you take that $50 billion and put it into opioid and addiction treatment,” Ryan said. “And you try taking fentanyl out of our communities.”
The Southern Border
Vance agrees, Ohio needs to decrease the amount of fentanyl on the streets and said one way to do that is by closing the southern border. Fahmy asked Vance if he is proposing a complete shutdown of the border:
“Oh absolutely,” Vance said. “I think, two things, first you have to empower border patrol agents to do their job and not actively prevent them from doing their job. The other thing is you have to just fund a border wall.”
Vance said by completing the wall, the United States benefits in two areas.
“You’re not going to eliminate all illegal immigration, but you’re going to eliminate most of it,” Vance said. “And, most importantly, you’re going to eliminate that fentanyl trafficking across the southern border.”
In 2019, in response to former President Donald Trump’s wall proposal, Ryan tweeted, “taxpayers are not going to foot the bill for a vanity project that trump promised Mexico would pay for.”
However, during his interview with NBC4, Ryan said they need innovative technology at the border, including a wall in some areas.
“I think if there’s large swathes of areas a wall makes sense, I think it works, but you’re not going to put a wall in the Rio Grande River, it doesn’t make any sense there,” Ryan said. “So, whatever the experts are saying we need something there, I am fine with that.”
View the border legislation Ryan proposed in June here.
On abortion, Vance said he wants the decision to be up to individual states, but is happy with the heartbeat law here in Ohio.
“I think it’s kind of crazy that America has the most liberal, the most pro-abortion laws effectively on the books,” Vance said.
Earlier this month, Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a bill that would criminalize abortion after fifteen weeks across the country, something Vance is not against.
“There are certain exceptions, certain necessities, but at the end the day, I do not think we should be doing late term elective abortion in this country,” Vance said. “So, I think the substance of this bill is right.”
Ryan said we need to go back to Roe vs. Wade in the United States, where, he said, there was stability and not chaos. Ryan said he would fight Senator Graham’s proposal.
“[The bill is the] Largest governmental overreach in the private lives of individual citizens in the history of our lifetime,” Ryan said. “Complete violation of personal freedom.”
Helping Ohioans make ends meet amid record inflation numbers is also top of list for both candidates if elected to the U.S. Senate.
“The most important thing is we need to get energy costs down, we need to get food costs down, we need to get housing costs down,” Vance said. “And the way to do that is to develop more energy, grow more food and build more housing. It’s really that simple.”
Vance said a point of focus should be on opening America’s energy resources.
“Not just gas, gasoline at the pump is way too high, but also natural gas. It will get people’s utility bills down; it gets our manufactured goods down. That’s the thing,” Vance said. “So long as you reduce prices and get prices under control, you can actually do a lot with the economy.”
Ryan said Republican accusations that he voted for bills that will increase taxes for middle class workers is not true.
“I am for corporations, who aren’t paying taxes, for them pay a minimum 15% tax. I think the wealthiest in the country who have seen all of the income gains these past 30 to 40 years should pay more,” Ryan said. “I have been for working class tax cuts, I will continue to be.”
Ryan said during his time in U.S. Congress, he has helped pass several bills that will strengthen Ohio’s economy and provide jobs.
“Infrastructure, CHIPS Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, are positioning Ohio to be the manufacturing powerhouse of the future, which is my absolute goal,” Ryan said. “I want Ohio to dominate manufacturing like we did in the old Industrial Age, I want us to dominate it in the new Industrial Age.”
NBC4 and Cleveland sister station FOX 8 will be hosting the first and only statewide debate between Ohio’s two candidates vying for Sen. Rob Portman’s seat. The debate between JD Vance and Tim Ryan will take place on NBC4 and NBC4i.com, on October 10, beginning at 7 pm