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Inflation and the economy at the center of Ohio's U.S. Senate race

Time Ryan and JD Vance
AP Composite Photo
Ohio Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, on March 28, 2022, in Wilberforce, Ohio, left, and Republican candidate JD Vance on Aug. 5, 2022, in Dallas.

The race to become Ohio’s next U.S. Senator has been a long journey, raking in millions of dollars and leading to heated debates among the candidates.

In a continuing series previewing the 2022 Ohio Elections from the Statehouse News Bureau, we look at how the economy has played a key role in the race between first-time Senate candidates J.D. Vance and Tim Ryan.

While 2022 has been marked by several topics that stir controversy and debate among voters, such as abortion and immigration, the one issue that consistently polls higher than anything else is the economy.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan have both used the economy as a centerpiece in their race. However, they diverge on the reasons for inflation and the ways to fix the problem.

Vance has pointed the blame squarely at Democratic leadership in Congress and President Biden. He said inflation has been caused by an influx of federal aid, such as the trillion-dollar relief package, and overregulation on the oil and gas industry.

“Simultaneously they’ve borrowed and spent trillions of dollars that we just don’t have and that’s thrown fuel on the fire of the inflation problem and at the same time they’ve gone to war against America’s energy sector," Vance said.

Ryan said it’s time for the country to come up with solutions to the problem, such as a tax cut, often a Republican proposal – instead of assigning blame.

“I think everybody’s to blame - I mean, we’re coming out of a pandemic. It’s a problem. The question is, are we going to sit around another 10 years and point fingers? What I’ve been proposing is a significant tax cut for working people and small businesses,” Ryan said.

Vance said he would be for a tax cut but said Ryan has mostly opposed tax cuts during his 20 years in Congress.

A key point Vance has tried to drive home is that Ryan always aligns himself with Democrats on these decisions that can impact the U.S. economy.

“Tim Ryan has voted with these policies 100% of the time. Every single time he gets an opportunity to stand up for Ohioans. He chooses to bend the knee to his own party,” Vance said.

Ryan has noted he ran for speaker against Nancy Pelosi in 2016 as an example of standing up to his party, as he tries to appeal to independent and moderate Republican voters and disaffected Democrats - he calls this whole group the “exhausted majority.” He’s even said he doesn’t believe Biden should run for re-election.

Ryan said he votes on plans that lead to economic growth, such as bills to subsidize electric vehicle manufacturing and the Intel semiconductor plant.

“Look at the Chips Act lands, the Intel project that's going to create $100 billion investment into Ohio, that's going to ripple throughout this entire economy,” Ryan said.

Both have said the U.S. needs to be tough on trade deals with China.

For Vance, that means tariffs on Chinese imports and relaxing regulations on the energy industry.

“Why has China taken a huge amount of America's jobs? Well, one of the reasons is because energy is too expensive. You cannot do modern industrial manufacturing without high-quality energy,” Vance said.

Ryan said he supported most of the tariffs that were proposed by former President Trump and that he has a long history of policy to back up his position on China.

“One of my first bills I had was to penalize China for manipulating their currency. I work to get tariffs on China's steel coming in. That led to $1,000,000,000 investment in the Youngstown steel mill,” Ryan said.

In their closing arguments in the first debate, both Ryan and Vance focused on why the economy is a key policy discussion in this race.

Ryan talked about the importance of supporting growth through federal spending.

“We have an opportunity to be the manufacturing powerhouse of the world. The arsenal of energy,” Ryan said.

And Vance emphasized the impact inflation has had on families.

“I think there's something very basic here. I think that people deserve certain things. Ohioans deserve certain things from their federal leadership. They deserve to go to the grocery store and be able to afford food without breaking the bank,” Vance said.

On the issue of social security, in a survey by AARP, Vance said the best way to protect the program is to grow the economy and create more workers that pay into the system. Ryan said he supports increasing benefits, expanding eligibility and keeping up with the cost of living.

Both candidates said they would fight against proposed funding cuts to Medicare.

The race has garnered national attention as the result of Ohio’s contest could determine the balance of the U.S. Senate, which is currently split 50-50.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.