COLUMBUS, Ohio â€” Morgan Harper said she couldnâ€™t get her main opponent in Ohioâ€™s Democratic Senate primary to debate her, so she opted for the furthest thing from him â€” a candidate on the other side of the aisle. Way on the other side.
Harper, a progressive underdog, debated far-right Republican Josh Mandel, the presumed front-runner in Ohioâ€™s GOP primary, in an Ohio church on Thursday night.
It went as well as you might expect.
Mandel, 44, repeatedly said the Democratic Party â€œcondescendsâ€ to people of color like Harper, and he insisted the reason her opponent wouldnâ€™t debate her is because she isnâ€™t a â€œwhite male.â€ Mandel also predicted he would set records for winning Black votes in Ohioâ€™s Senate race.
Harper, 38, shot back: â€œWhat we donâ€™t need to happen is have Josh Mandel talk for the Black community.â€
At one point, Mandel called Harper a â€œlooney Nancy Pelosiâ€ for â€œadvocating for all this green energyâ€ when Harper pledged to support renewable energy to help mitigate climate change.
In the eveningâ€™s most bizarre exchange, Mandel insisted there is no separation between church and state in the United States â€” the literal First Amendment of the Constitution.
â€œIâ€™m pro-God, pro-gun, pro-Trump, and I will fight in Washington with the Constitution in one hand and the Bible in the other.â€
– GOP Senate candidate Josh Mandel
â€œI do not believe in separation of church and state. Thereâ€™s no such thing. The founders of this county, the Founding Fathers, they did not believe in the separation of church and state. When you read the United States Constitution, nowhere do you read about the separation of church and state. It does not exist,â€ he said, followed by an audible gasp from the audience.
Naturally, Harper and Mandel couldnâ€™t be further apart on just about everything.
â€œJosh Mandel is the swamp.â€
– Democratic Senate candidate Morgan Harper
â€œI am scared as a woman, as a Black person, as a daughter who has a mother who lives off of a monthly pension, of getting this guy anywhere near a seat of power in the United States Senate,â€ Harper said.
Harper is a staunch progressive who challenged now-Congressional Black Caucus chair Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) in a 2020 primary. She ran then with the backing of Justice Democrats, the group that helped democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez knock off a New York City incumbent to win her congressional seat.
Mandel, a former state treasurer, has veered hard right in the primary, trafficking in election conspiracies and racist rhetoric to appeal to the Trump base â€” and Trump himself for a potential endorsement. Mandel has done much of his campaigning in evangelical churches.
â€œIâ€™m pro-God, pro-gun, pro-Trump, and I will fight in Washington with the Constitution in one hand and the Bible in the other,â€ Mandel said.
Ryanâ€™s campaign said it would debate Harper at some point, but right now itâ€™s more focused on meeting voters.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter whether Josh Mandel is standing in a cornfield calling for an armed insurrection or showing his out-of-touch, anti-worker agenda on the debate stage; heâ€™s wrong for Ohio and doesnâ€™t belong anywhere near the U.S. Senate,â€ Ryanâ€™s spokesperson Izzi Levy said.