The leading candidates in Ohio’s Republican Senate primary race nearly got physical in a showdown during a Friday debate.
State Treasurer Josh Mandel appeared ready to fight investment banker Mike Gibbons.
The two men seemed nearly at arms as they stood face-to-face and traded insults, with audience members booing a display one might expect of politics in a third-world country.
The confrontation began when Mandel accused Gibbons of various Chinese business dealings.
Mike Gibbons and Josh Mandel get in each other’s faces at tonight’s GOP #OHSen forum hosted by FreedomWorks.
“You watch what happens,” Mandel says. pic.twitter.com/fQuqfHxXHT
— Heartland Signal (@HeartlandSignal) March 18, 2022
Gibbons rejected Mandel’s claims and questioned his business acumen.
“You may not understand this … because you’ve never been in the private sector,” he said.
Mandel arose from his seat angrily, citing his military service in a rebuttal of Gibbons’ claims.
“Two tours in Iraq, you don’t tell me I haven’t worked!” he said. “Don’t tell me I haven’t worked.”
Gibbons, who is considerably older than the 44-year-old Mandel, didn’t back down.
“You don’t know squat,” he said. “You don’t know squat.”
At one point, one of the candidates called the other a “p****,” in a crude reference to female anatomy. While some outlets reported it was Mandel who used the word, Politico’s Natalie Allison presented evidence it was Gibbons.
WARNING: The following video and tweets contain vulgar language that some viewers may find offensive.
For all of you who spent your weekend consumed by the mystery of which Ohio GOP Senate candidate called the other a “pussy” at Friday’s debate — here’s a video zooming in on Mike Gibbons, who appears to say it. (His campaign maintains it was Josh Mandel.) pic.twitter.com/vNxFj96PYE
— Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) March 20, 2022
Alternative audio of the standoff reveals the audience at the FreedomWorks debate was displeased by the tough guy act, perhaps disappointed that their debate had descended to amateur grandstanding instead of policy discussions.
Two GOP Senate frontrunner candidates Josh Mandel and Mike Gibbons got in each other’s faces at The Jerry Springer Show I mean the Ohio Republican Senate debate.
Sen. Josh Mandel to Sen Mike Gibbons: “You’re dealing with the wrong guy” “pussy.”pic.twitter.com/llTOhcmBgN
— Neo Jane (@NeoJane8) March 19, 2022
J.D. Vance, one of the other Senate candidates on the stage, reacted to the display of machismo.
“Sit down … Come on!” he said, perhaps expressing the sentiments of Ohio Republicans who disapprove of their candidates engaging in such schoolyard antics.
Vance, a Marine Corps veteran, later rebuked Mandel for using his military service as a political weapon.
This is what a U.S. Senator looks like. pic.twitter.com/zmR4A6rAz7
— Ohio War Room (@OhioWarRoom) March 19, 2022
Polling before the debate showed the Ohio GOP primary to be closely contested between Gibbons and Mandel, with Vance in third place.
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