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15th Congressional District candidates debate economy, negative ads

Republican Steve Stivers, Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy and Independent Don Elijah Eckhart met up for a debate at WOSU at COSI. The three candidates vying for Ohio's 15th Congressional District seat threw very few proverbial punches.

Debate topics ran the gamut, from the recent economic bailout bill to the energy crisis to negative campaigning.

Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy is in her second run for Capitol Hill. She narrowly lost to Republican incumbent Deborah Pryce in 2006. Kilroy, a Franklin County Commissioner, said she would have voted for the bailout bill.

"We need to move in quickly to eliminate and put more over sight and more regulation so the risky behaviors on Wall Street and the banking industry that has brought us to this crisis come to an end," Kilroy said. Republican Steve Stivers, a state senator and an Iraq war veteran, said he had serious concerns about the bailout bill and never said if he would have voted for it. He offered other ideas to fix the economy.

"I think we have to get this economy back on track, and jobs and economic development are our first priority. That starts with making sure we focus on innovation, retool our workforce development programs," he said.

Independent candidate Don Elijah Eckhart, who said he would not have supported the bailout bill, said he wanted to balance the Federal budget.

All three candidates said they support energy independence, but they had different ideas about how to achieve it.

Stivers wants to invest $110 billion over ten years in renewable energy research. And he said he would pay for it with mineral rights from off-shore drilling. But he also supports auto manufacturing reform.

"We need to encourage our domestic automobile manufacturers in fact require them to raise the mile per gallon standard," Stivers said.

Kilroy said Americans will start taking a proactive approach to the energy crisis when government shows them, for example, choosing a fuel-efficient car over an SUV makes more sense.

"We give those tax credits for purchasing a fuel-efficient vehicle. And we work with employers and parking lots so people can use their plug in hybrid," she said. Eckhart said solar and wind power have more potential to solve the nation's energy problems. And he supports clean coal technology.

"We want to make use of all kinds of clean energy technologies. And we need to promote those with a good level of research and development to make that happen," Eckhart said.

And the candidates addressed the ones plaguing the 15th district. Those against Stivers say he's a former bank lobbyist beholden to banking interests, and say he opposed predatory lending reform. Ads against Kilroy criticize her decisions as a county commissioner, specifically accepting union contracts that were not the lowest bid.

Kilroy defended the decision to hire union workers for the new Huntington ball park even though they were not the cheapest.

"The companies in question broke Ohio law, and didn't disclose that as they were requested to on their application, lied on their application, and so we moved on to the next lowest bidder," she said.

Stivers, who worked at Bank One for seven years, touted the number of jobs he helped create while he was there. Stivers defended vote against a state predatory lending bill.

"The only enforcement mechanism was to let people sue and so what happens is when you get sued you can victimize 20, 30, 40 or 50 more people while you're being sued so it really was not the right approach," Stivers said.

The Columbus Metropolitan Club and WOSU sponsored debate.