(NewsNation) — The second and final debate between Ohio Senate hopefuls again descended into personal attacks, with each candidate trying to prove themselves as someone more willing to stand up to party leadership.
It was a bid by Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance to show voters the other can’t be trusted to represent the interests of Ohioans. The race is among those that could determine control of Congress and remains close despite the state’s larger shift to the right in two consecutive presidential election cycles.
Countering attempts by Vance to tie him to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Ryan noted he ran against her for leadership, saying that “you have to have the courage to take on your own leaders.”
“These leaders in D.C., they will eat you up like a chew toy,” Ryan said. “You were calling Trump America’s Hitler, and then you kissed his ass, and then he endorsed you and you said he’s the greatest president of all time.”
It was the second straight debate that Ryan criticized Vance’s support for the former president. He also noted the money Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP megadonor Peter Thiel have given to Vance’s campaign.
“What do you think they want for that?” Ryan said. “They want your loyalty.”
Vance hit back, accusing Ryan of voting with Pelosi “100% of the time” and sucking up to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“It’s ridiculous to accuse me of being anything because he has utterly failed to be independent,” Vance said. “The guy who is subservient to the national party is Tim Ryan, who’s been begging for these guys to come into this race and save him from the campaign he’s been running.”
Ryan has served in Congress since he was first elected in 2002 representing a northeastern part of the state. Vance is a political newcomer who rose to prominence in 2016 with his memoir “Hillbilly Elegy.”
The pair also clashed over immigration, abortion and the economy Monday night, but the most heated exchange came toward the end when Ryan accused Vance of espousing xenophobic and racist beliefs.
The exchange came in response to a question about the so-called great replacement theory, a racist conspiracy theory that asserts there is an intentional effort to replace white Americans with people of color.
“This is who he’s running around with, talking about replacement theory,” Ryan said. “There’s no big grand conspiracy. This country has been enriched by immigrants from all quarters of the world.”
Vance interrupted, telling Ryan the accusation was “shameful” given his family.
“My turn, pal,” Ryan responded, prompting Vance to say, “Oh, buddy.”
Ryan went on to note that a mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket earlier this year that targeted Black people was motivated by the great replacement theory.
“This is disgusting,” Vance responded. “Here’s exactly what happens when the media and people like Tim Ryan accuse me of engaging the great replacement theory.”
“What happens is my own children, my own biracial children, get attacked by scumbags online and in person because you are so desperate for political power that you’ll accuse me, the father of three beautiful biracial babies, of engaging in racism? We are sick of it. You can believe in the border without being a racist.”