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Republican J.D. Vance and Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan used the final Ohio Senate debate to air favorite attack lines from months of TV ads, clashing over themes of abortion, the opioid crisis and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Vance, the Republican author of "Hillbilly Elegy" endorsed by former President Donald Trump, said Ryan "had his chance" to make a difference for Ohioans after almost 20 years in the U.S. House. Ryan touted his roots as someone who "never left" Ohio, portraying Vance as an outsider with San Francisco ties during his years as a venture capitalist.
Vance and Ryan are competing to fill the seat by Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who is retiring. The race is one of a handful of competitive Senate races that could determine which party controls the Senate in 2023.
We fact-checked a few claims by the candidates on key issues.
Ryan said "I do love" Pelosi in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, and made similar remarks in other national TV interviews. But this lacks context: Ryan made these remarks in November 2016 after Trump won the election. Ryan quickly followed up his "love" for Pelosi with his explanation for challenging her for House Democratic leader.
Ryan said at the time that the Democratic Party needed new leaders who could speak to voters in Republican areas of the country. The caucus voted for Pelosi.
This stems from an interview Vance gave in September 2021 to Spectrum News 1. Vance did not directly say "rape is inconvenient." But when Vance was asked whether laws should allow people to get abortions if they were victims of rape or incest, he suggested that society should not view a pregnancy or birth resulting from rape or incest as "inconvenient."
Vance added, "What kind of society do we want to have? A society that looks at unborn babies as inconveniences to be discarded?"
Most of the fentanyl seized by U.S. border authorities is seized at official checkpoints, not in between ports of entry. Drug policy and immigration experts have told PolitiFact that physical barriers at the border probably won’t stop drugs from coming in, because drug cartels find ways around them — including through tunnels and under legal goods in trailer trucks that seek to cross the border legally.
"Drugs have poured over the border since the 1980s, including intensely during the Trump administration. The wall did not make any difference," Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow in the Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution think tank previously told PolitiFact.
Annual fentanyl seizures at the southwest border have been steadily increasing since at least fiscal year 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration has reported.
The idea that Democratic leaders want more immigrants to come to the U.S. to win votes is misleading in two ways. First, the number of noncitizens who vote is minuscule.
Second, if Vance was referring to immigrants becoming citizens and voting, the path to citizenship can take a decade or longer. Mike Madrid, an anti-Trump Republican strategist, previously told PolitiFact it is ridiculous to make assumptions about how immigrants crossing the border will vote years from now if they gain citizenship.
This is a reference to Vance’s nonprofit, Our Ohio Renewal, that launched in spring 2017 aiming to fight opioid addiction. The nonprofit wasn’t fake, but we found it filed a tax return only for 2017 and that receipts were less than $50,000 from 2018 to 2020, meaning it didn’t need to file a tax return.
The New York Times found the nonprofit fizzled out without much of a record of accomplishments. It spent $45,000 for a survey of the "social, cultural and general welfare needs of Ohio citizens."
Political consultant Jai Chabria was the nonprofit’s executive director while he advised Vance on whether to run for the Senate in 2018; Vance opted not to. Chabria is the chief strategist on Vance’s 2022 campaign. Chabria would not say when the nonprofit’s survey was executed or whether it was the same polling undertaken about Vance’s potential run for office.
Vance responded by highlighting Ryan’s "tens of thousands of dollars from the very companies that have profited off of this" opioid epidemic. The Associated Press reported that AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Ohio-based Cardinal Health donated $27,000 to Ryan since 2007.
Vance replied that Ryan’s statement was a "complete fabrication." While he didn’t use those exact words, Vance supported Jones in a September 2021 tweet: "Alex Jones is a far more reputable source of information than Rachel Maddow. One of them is censored by the regime. The other promoted by it."
A couple of days later, Vance said on Fox News, "I was just kind of trolling everybody."
Vance said Jones says some "crazy stuff," but also occasionally said things "that I think are interesting."
A Connecticut jury on Oct. 12 ordered Jones to pay almost $1 billion to eight families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Jones had said the shooting that killed 20 first graders and six educators was a government hoax. Jones is known for using his InfoWars site to traffic in conspiracy theories and misinformation.
One year after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Vance tweeted a link to the Patriot Freedom Project, a group that raises money for the defendants.
Vance tweeted: "There are dozens of people who protested on J6 who haven’t even been charged with a crime yet are being mistreated in DC prisons. … *Even if* the very worst of the Democrats’ claims about J6 are true (they’re not), it is an insult to all of us that so many people are rotting in prison without being offered a speedy trial. These people are political prisoners, and their captivity is an assault on democracy."
The majority of defendants awaiting trial had been released from jail pending the outcome of their cases. The defendants are not political prisoners — they have faced charges, some for violent crimes, for their assault on the Capitol.
Vance may have been referring to Ryan’s decision to leave his guest seat for Trump’s 2018 address empty in honor of Amer Othman Adi, a Palestinian man who lived in Youngstown for almost 40 years. Ryan couldn’t bring him to the speech, because Adi was deported the night before.
The deportation followed years of back and forth with immigration authorities over the green card he obtained upon marrying an American woman in 1980. The couple divorced after less than a year, and Adi moved to Youngstown, where he started a convenience store and other businesses, married again and had four children. He did not have a criminal record. Ryan fought for years to delay Adi’s deportation before Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a new order in January 2018.
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Ohio Secretary of State, Voting schedule, 2022
Open Secrets, Ohio Senate, 2022
Fivethirtyeight, Who’s ahead in the Ohio Senate race? 2022
Akron Beacon Journal, Fact check - Breakdown of what Ryan, Vance said during debate, Oct. 13, 2022
J.D. Vance, Tweet, Jan. 6, 2021
J.D. Vance, Tweet, Sept. 5, 2021
New York Times, J.D. Vance’s First Attempt to Renew Ohio Crumbled Quickly, Oct. 8, 2022
CNN, Fact check: J.D. Vance falsely claims dozens of jailed Capitol protesters haven't been charged with a crime, Jan. 8, 2022
New York Times, … and a Merry Christmas From the ‘Patriots’ of Jan. 6, Dec. 23, 2021
Patriot Freedom Project, Aug. 17, 2022
U.S. Attorney’s Office, 21 Months Since the Jan. 6 Attack on the Capitol, Oct. 11, 2022
USA Today, Ohio Senate candidates J.D. Vance, Tim Ryan face off in Youngstown debate: Recap, Oct. 17, 2022
Fox News, "I Was Just Kind Of Trolling Everybody" JD Vance On His Tweet Saying Alex Jones Is Far More Reputable Source Of Info Than Rachel Maddow, Sept. 7, 2021
PolitiFact, Arizona GOP candidate Kari Lake wrongly says Jan. 6 defendants are in prison without charges, March 17, 2022
PolitiFact, Would a border wall have prevented the opioid epidemic?, Feb. 2, 2018
PolitiFact, Fentanyl seizures are not evidence of an ‘open border’, Feb. 24, 2022
Drug Enforcement Administration, "2020 National Drug Threat Assessment," March 2, 2021
AP, Drug companies in opioid crisis donated $27K to Ohio’s Ryan, Oct. 5, 2022
Cleveland.com, Youngstown businessmen to be deported over previous marriage (video, photos), Jan. 2, 2018