OXFORD, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s Democratic U.S. senator during a debate Friday evening called on the Donald Trump-backed congressman trying to unseat him to urge the president to try to unite the country. The Republican Rep. Jim Renacci replied that there’s too much divisive rhetoric on both sides and that there needs to be more bipartisanship.
Second-term Sen. Sherrod Brown and Renacci had their third and last scheduled debate at Miami University, hours after the Trump administration announced an arrest in the nationwide mail-bomb scare targeting prominent Democrats who have traded criticism with the president.
Brown cited “Lock her up!” chants at Trump rallies, usually referring to Hillary Clinton, the 2016 presidential nominee Trump defeated. She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were among Democrats that mailed packages.
“These are bombs … these are attempted assassinations,” Brown said. “I wish we could tone it down. I wish the president would lead.”
He said Renacci should join him in “calling on the president to lead.”
“When it comes from both sides, it’s truly an issue,” said Renacci, who is in his fourth term in Congress. “We can’t have this in politics.”
He said when he first got to Washington, he found the partisan bickering to be “ridiculous.” He said he’s been part of a bipartisan breakfast meeting group that’s helped produce successful legislation.
Afterward, Renacci told reporters: “There are things that the president says I wouldn’t say. There are tweets he makes that I wouldn’t make. But in the end … I support the actions and the results.”
For the most part, the candidates followed their familiar themes. Renacci, a businessman, said Brown, a former congressman, has been in politics too long and puts Washington first. Brown said Renacci puts billionaires and millionaires first.
Brown, 65, is considered a clear favorite. Trump tried to boost Renacci, 59, at an Oct. 12 rally in nearby Warren County. Renacci moved from the Republican gubernatorial primary field early this after getting White House encouragement.
Moderator Sheree Paolello of WLWT-TV in Cincinnati had to warn people in the crowd shouting out comments that they would be subject to removal.
There were shouts and boos during an exchange about domestic abuse. Renacci again raised allegations made against Brown during his divorce proceedings in the 1980s and said he shouldn’t be a U.S. senator. And Brown again said Renacci “should be ashamed” of himself. His ex-wife, Larke Recchie, is featured in a TV ad on his behalf. She has repeatedly asked Republicans to stop using the divorce in political campaigns.
Brown’s campaign is running an ad poking fun at Renacci’s use of a strip-club owner’s private plane for campaign flights. After Renacci said Brown needed to spend more time in Ohio, Brown said he regularly goes around the state.
“If you don’t see me, it’s because you’re not looking down from the plane,” Brown told Renacci.
At the point in the debate when they were asked to say something positive about each other, they struggled to do so. Brown, from Cleveland, complimented Renacci on leading an effort in the House to get the congressional gold medal for Larry Doby, an Indians player who was the first black baseball player in the American League. But Brown noted that Renacci grew up in Pennsylvania rooting for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers.
Renacci responded that he’s had season tickets for the Indians and for the Cleveland Browns football team, and pointed out that Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a Miami University alumnus. He also said that while the Doby measure passed out of the House, Brown hasn’t gotten it passed through the Senate.
“It’s easy to talk about it, I’m hoping he (Brown) can do it, because then by the end of this year, we can talk about something that actually did get accomplished,” Renacci said.
Some 700 people attended the debate. Four times that many were at the Miami ice hockey team’s game with Colgate University being played a few blocks away.