Ohio’s Republican U.S. Senate candidates talk immigration, Ukraine and Trump in a live forum

Posted on:

< < Back to

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — The three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate met for a forum at the University of Findlay Monday night. The name of former president Trump, who’s endorsed businessman Bernie Moreno, came up 36 times in the hour. But Moreno, state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) and Secretary of State Frank LaRose were also asked about immigration and other issues.

The Republican primary on March 19 will determine which of them will face Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in November. Early voting starts on Wednesday.

The candidates all said they want a border wall completed and that drug cartels should be defined as terrorist organizations.

From left, Mike Kallmeyer of Spectrum Networks Ohio moderates a Republican U.S. Senate primary forum with state Sen. Matt Dolan, Secretary of State Frank Larose and businessman Bernie Moreno
From left, Mike Kallmeyer of Spectrum Networks Ohio moderates a Republican U.S. Senate primary forum with state Sen. Matt Dolan, Secretary of State Frank Larose and businessman Bernie Moreno Feb. 19, 2024, in the TLB Auditorium at the University of Findlay in Findlay, OH. [Jeremy Wadsworth | The Blade]
LaRose suggested three military divisions deployed at the border: “about 60,000 troops. That’s the only entity in the federal government that can stop the invasion that’s currently happening. They don’t need to be there long. That would be a temporary deployment until the wall can be completed.”

Dolan said he would exempt workers on certain visas, but otherwise a shutdown.

“We must secure and seal our border. That means we are temporarily closing our border to immigration,” Dolan said. “While we are doing that, we are getting our security up. We’re getting more border patrol with law enforcement authority, more wall, more technology.”

Moreno said all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. now must go.

“We have to deport anybody who is in this country illegally, no matter what it takes to make that happen,” Moreno said. “That’s the answer to this. Plus, changing our asylum laws.”

It’s estimated there are around 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. LaRose inflated that number to 20 million but said mass deportations “overnight or even within a few months or years is an unrealistic promise.”

Moreno and Dolan took firm stances on Ukraine, but LaRose was noncommittal.

“[Russian president Vladimir] Putin in Ukraine is a threat to us. I don’t want Putin to have control of the world’s wheat at 25% of the world’s wheat. I don’t want Putin to have control of the lithium that Ukraine has,” Dolan said. “This is a matter of American security because I don’t want Ohio boys and girls – I have two nephews now in the armed services today – I don’t want them to go to Poland or the Baltics and have to fight Putin if we roll over and withdraw from Ukraine.”

“We should absolutely not give any more money to fight a stalemate that is killing hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians. We are not in the business to fund more endless wars,” Moreno said. “This country should not be funding wars that don’t have a clear path to victory, that aren’t in our interest, and that have a situation where all you’re going to do is encourage more bloodshed.”

LaRose pointed out the “contrast” between him and his opponents, but then did not clarify his view.

“It’s clear that it is American weakness that causes instability around the world, not American strength,” LaRose said. “Biden has projected nothing but weakness, from the shambolic withdrawal from Afghanistan to the absolute invasion he’s allowing to occur on the southern border to the way that he’s handled Ukraine and the way that he’s now handled mishandling the situation in Israel.”

But all said the market and not government should set the minimum wage, with Dolan and Moreno saying a minimum wage is not intended to be a livable wage.

While there were no major fireworks, there were a few sparks.

LaRose said Moreno had advocated for a pathway to residency for unauthorized immigrants, prompting Moreno to respond that “I’ve never, ever called for a path to citizenship for illegals.” Dolan said his opponents have “reinvented” themselves on immigration, adding that LaRose had worked with the group No Labels, “which had a clear path to citizenship.”

As he did in the first debate, LaRose brought up a lawsuit in which Moreno was ordered to pay $400,000 to some former employees who claimed he didn’t pay them earned overtime. More than a dozen similar cases were settled for undisclosed amounts. And as he had said in the last first debate, Moreno once again said LaRose “lied to everybody and said that President Trump told him that he wasn’t going to endorse in this race.”

Trump endorsed Moreno the next day. LaRose said Trump “changed his mind” and added, “My honor means a lot and I’ve never lied about this.”

Dolan noted that LaRose had used the hashtag “#NeverTrump” and backed former Gov. John Kasich in 2016 till he dropped out of the race, and Moreno had deleted tweets critical of Trump.

“I didn’t have to delete any tweets about President Trump. I didn’t have to change any of my positions about the 2020 election or Jan. 6. I have been consistent,” Dolan said, though Dolan has been clear that Trump lied about the 2020 election being stolen.

In a statement following the forum, Ohio Democratic Party spokesperson Katie Smith said of the GOP U.S. Senate forum: “Ohioans saw tonight that no one in this field will fight for them…Moreno, LaRose, and Dolan made it clear they’re only out for themselves.”