Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel, the Republican nominee for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat, said during a debate Monday afternoon that he would have voted against the auto bailout package.
Mandel, who is challenging Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), told an audience at the City Club of Cleveland that he would have opposed the 2009 package passed by President Obama and Congress, saying that the package hurt pensions for workers at the Delphi plants and other plants in the state. Mandel has long discussed the Delphi pension issue when questioned on the auto bailout, but he has not taken a specific stand on the bailout until Monday's debate.
"I would not have voted for that," Mandel said of the bailout.
Mandel used the contentious, hour-long debate to rail against the auto bailout, the federal bailout for financial services companies, and the federal stimulus program, saying that Brown has not voted to create jobs.
"I am not a bailout senator; he is the bailout senator," Mandel said of Brown.
Brown, who has made the auto bailout a cornerstone of his reelection campaign, immediately fought back, giving a virtual tour of Ohio in terms of the auto industry. Brown also cast the auto bailout as a bipartisan issue, noting that former Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and retiring Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) both voted for the package.
"Those are real jobs and real people," Brown said. "If you would be so out-of-step with George Voinovich and Steve LaTourette to be against the auto rescue, it boggles my mind."
Mandel, 35, did stress that his opposition to the bailout was not an opposition to the auto industry in Ohio. He said he will make the auto industry, along with middle-class jobs, a top issue if elected to the Senate.
"This is an issue that is personal to me," Mandel said. "As a United States Senator I will take a back seat to no one in fighting for auto jobs."
The auto bailout has been a top issue in the Ohio Senate race, with Mandel previously calling Brown "un-American" for voting for the bailout and saying that he "should be ashamed" of his vote. Mandel has ducked questions on how he would vote on the subject, leading to a testy exchange with a newspaper editorial board when he was pressed for an answer. The bailout has become a top issue for Democrats nationally, with much of the Democratic National Convention dedicated to the subject.
When asked during the debate about his hiring practices in the treasurer's office, Mandel defended his appointees. He deflected questions comparing his hiring to the practices of former Treasurer Kevin Boyce (R), who Mandel criticized in 2010 for supposedly hiring political cronies. The Dayton Daily News has reported that Mandel has given top jobs to political associates and college friends, while The Huffington Post has reported that he sent his debt management director to a beginner's class in the subject.
"The comparison is apples and oranges; the folks we hired are qualified professionals," Mandel said. "I will take our team of qualified professionals we have in my office and stack them up to your office."
Mandel even hinted a road trip may be in the future for his appointees.
"I will take them to Washington," he said.
Brown hit back at Mandel's defense, noting that Mandel has skipped 14 months of state Board of Deposit meetings, along with campaigning during the workday at out-of-state locations including in the Bahamas. Brown also spoke critically of Mandel's hiring practices
During the debate, Mandel stressed his opposition to the bailouts as part of his platform to reduce federal spending. He said he would not fund future bailouts in order to cut spending, and said he would utilize bailout funds for other areas of the budget. Mandel also called for defense cuts, in opposition to what has been said by other Republicans, including Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Mandel, a retired Marine who fought in Iraq, said he would like to close some military bases in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.
"We are not fighting the Nazis anymore, or the Cold War anymore," he said.