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Ryan and Vance spar over racism, gun control in final Senate debate

Democrat Tim Ryan (left) and Republican J.D. Vance (right) will meet on the November ballot for Ohio's U.S. Senate race.
AP photos
Democrat Tim Ryan (left) and Republican J.D. Vance (right) will meet on the November ballot for Ohio's U.S. Senate race.

The candidates in Ohio’s close and expensive U.S. Senate race met on stage for a final debate Monday, sparring over immigration, guns, abortion and other issues.

Longtime Democratic congressman Tim Ryan has been running as a moderate to appeal to the Republican voters he’ll likely need to win. He's competing against venture capitalist J.D. Vance, who's also the author of Hillbilly Elegy. The Republican Vance is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who won Ohio in 2016 and 2020.

"I’m running to represent the exhausted majority – people who are tired of this stuff," Ryan said.

Some of the "stuff" Ryan repeatedly referred to is Great Replacement Theory, the racist concept that Democrats and their allies use policies to "replace" the political power of white people with that of people of color.

During the debate, Ryan accused Vance of peddling the theory embraced by the Buffalo, New York mass shooter who killed 10 Black people inside a grocery store.

"This Great Replacement Theory was the motivator for the shooting in Buffalo. Where that shooter had all these Great Replacement Theory writings that J.D. Vance agrees with," Ryan said.

Vance insists he's never embraced the racist theory, and said claims that he has endanger his family.

"What happens is that my own children, my 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," Vance said.

“Tim Ryan's had his chance for 20 years. And I think we need to take this country and the state in a different direction,” Vance also said.

When it comes to abortion, Vance largely dodged questions on what policies he would support if elected.

"I know people who have been pro-life since before I was born," Vance said. "One of the things they will tell you is they support an exception in the case of incest. I've heard a number of pro-life people say that. But an incest exception looks different at three weeks of pregnancy versus 39 weeks of pregnancy. I actually don't think that you can say on a debate stage every single thing that you're going to vote for when it comes to an abortion piece of legislation."

Ryan has said he supports a Roe-style guarantee of federal abortion rights.

In the debate, Ryan also called for tighter gun control laws, saying "kids are scared to go to school" because of the threat of mass shootings.

Vance said he supports the new state law that lowered the amount of training required for Ohio teachers to carry concealed guns in classrooms. He also said he supports more funding for school resource officers.

With less a month before the election that will determine the successor to Rob Portman, polls show the two candidates are essentially tied.