How abortion and immigration are shaping the US Senate race in Ohio

The candidates in Ohio’s high-profile US Senate campaign have lashed out at each other in campaign ads and debates. While the economy was the number one issue among voters, other key issues stirred the pot in this heated race.

In an ongoing series previewing the 2022 Ohio election from the Statehouse News Bureau, we break down how issues like abortion and immigration play key roles as Tim Ryan and JD Vance try to reach their base.

As Vance and Ryan met with supporters across Ohio, it became clear which issues were most important to the more conservative and liberal voters on the campaign trail.

As Ryan sat in an intimate Dayton town hall, a group of black voters expressed how important it was for the Democratic congressman to be “aggressive” on abortion.

Ryan, who opposed abortion until about seven years ago, said he would support the codification of the Roe v. Wade’s abortion rights, which the US Supreme Court overturned in June. He also notes that US Senate Republicans are trying to pass a 15-week national abortion ban.

“Well, these are extreme positions. And I think people need to know who they’re voting for in circumstances like this, where you have a guy who’s willing to codify Roe v Wade’s bin Laden country for 50 years. It brings nothing but chaos to society,” Ryan said.

During their debate in Cleveland, Vance said he remembered seeing young, poor women in his hometown having abortions because, he said, they didn’t think they had options.

He supports Republican Senator Lindsay Graham’s proposal for a 15-week abortion ban.

“My take on this in general is that Ohio wants different abortion laws in California than in Texas, and I think Ohio should have that right. But some minimum national standard is totally fine with me,” Vance said.

Although Ryan said he supports Roe’s codification, which generally allows abortions until a fetus is viable, usually around 24 to 28 weeks.

Vance said it’s Ryan who has the extreme views.

“He voted for a bill that would have overturned Roe and required an on-demand abortion at 40 weeks for purely discretionary reasons,” Vance said.

Back at Dayton City Hall, Ryan said “chaos” has broken out over strict abortion bans in Ohio and elsewhere that have left pregnant women unable to get the care they need, bringing up stories like that 10-year-old out Columbus rape victim who had to go to Indiana for an abortion. He said it’s an issue that drives even more men across the state.

“Fathers with boys, you know, with daughters, like – no way. No way, no way is JD Vance or Ted Cruz or those weirdos going to be at the doctor’s office with my daughter if she has a problem,” Ryan said.

Just as Ryan has focused on abortion with the liberal base, Vance has stressed the need for tougher immigration policies as he meets with conservative supporters across Ohio.

Like that rally in Avon, west of Cleveland, where Vance told a crowd of Republicans that the US is struggling with what he calls an “open border.”

“Joe Biden and Tim Ryan ripped open America’s southern border. The local people know it. The evidence about seizures really just tells us that more people are experiencing them in the first place,” Vance said.

US authorities made a record two million immigrant arrests on the southern border last year.

But Ryan seems to agree with Vance on this issue.

“It’s not safe. We have a lot to do. I’m not here to just throw myself into a fight or just to drag the Democratic Party line. I’m here to tell the truth. We have more work to do, which is why I decided to label fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction,” Ryan said.

Ryan listed other policies he supports in Congress, such as increasing funding for border patrol.

But Vance emphasizes that the crisis on the southern border is leading to increased violence and drug use in America.

“He talks about being bipartisan and wanting to get things done. Well, Tim, you’ve been in Congress for 20 years, and the border issue has only gotten worse and worse,” Vance said.

Ryan said the US also needs to reform its immigration process for the people who are already in America.

“If they’re here, pay a fine, pay back taxes, pass a background check and come into the country,” Ryan said.

Vance also said he supports a system that would allow immigrants into the US if they do something “meaningful” for the country, which he described as skills or proficiency in English. He said he supports Republican Senator Tom Cotton’s RAISE Act.

Ryan and Vance’s campaign rhetoric has recently skewed more toward messages that might align with moderates at a time when many independent voters are voting indecisively. However, supporters from each candidate base have stressed the need to still get the vote out among their factions.


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