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Sherrod Brown and Jim Renacci agree — sort of — on three debates for Ohio Senate race

July 29, 2018

Sherrod Brown and Jim Renacci agree — sort of — on three debates for Ohio Senate race

CLEVELAND, Ohio — It looks as if Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and his Republican opponent, Rep. Jim Renacci, are going to have three debates in the ‘Three C’s’ before the November election.

Brown’s campaign on Saturday night issued a statement saying his and Renacci’s teams had agreed to the three debates — one each in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. 

On Sunday afternoon, Renacci’s campaign confirmed that they are interested in participating in those debates in those cities — subject to final negotiations — although they hope there will be at least one more debate, if not more. The times and dates have not been determined. 

The Renacci campaign wants at least one of three agreed upon debates to be solely focused on tax-related issues, according to a spokeswoman, but the Brown campaign hasn’t agreed to that. If this ends up happening, the debates would be very similar to the three debates Brown conducted in those three cities during his last re-election campaign in 2012.

If that’s all you want to know, stop reading here. But if you want a flavor of the quibbling that often accompanies debate negotiations between high-profile political candidates, the story continues.

The public debate talk for Ohio’s Senate race began on Friday, when the New York Times published a story quoting Brown saying he’d be willing to devote an entire debate with Renacci solely to the recently passed Republican tax overhaul. Brown told the Times that Republicans “should be ashamed of their tax bill, and I think they are,” and “I think this is a fundamental difference between the two parties.” Brown and the Renacci campaign had been negotiating parameters for debates around the same time the story came out.

Late Saturday afternoon, the Renacci campaign issued a statement to the media saying Renacci accepted Brown’s “offer.” 

“As a chief architect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, I would like nothing more than to devote an entire debate to talking about all the ways this important legislation has helped Ohio families and small businesses,” Renacci said in the statement.

Later that evening, the Brown campaign issued a statement of their own. Preston Maddock, a campaign spokesman, announced the two sides had agreed to debates in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.

“Last week our campaign had a good conversation with the Renacci campaign about candidate debates this fall,” Maddock said. “The campaigns mutually agreed to three debates total, which will be held in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. We look forward to continuing good faith discussions with the Renacci campaign to ensure that voters have the opportunity to learn more about the clear contrast in this race.”

Shortly afterward, Renacci campaign spokeswoman Leslie Shedd protested in a pair of Twitter posts. She said the two sides had agreed to “at least” three debates, but that “no locations had been confirmed.” She also said that the Renacci campaign had asked about a fourth debate, but that Brown’s campaign manager said he’d only do three.

Just to clarify, we have agreed to AT LEAST three debates but no locations have been confirmed. We’d love to have more than three debates. @SherrodBrown told @jimtankersley he wanted at least one debate on taxes - and we have publicly accepted that.— Leslie Shedd (@leslieshedd) July 29, 2018

We actually specifically asked that this tax debate - that was suggested by @SherrodBrown to @jimtankersley - would be a fourth debate. But we were shut down by @JustinBarasky who said Brown would only do 3 debates. As a note, there are 12 different media markets in Ohio. #ohsen— Leslie Shedd (@leslieshedd) July 29, 2018

Maddock, in his own Twitter post, since deleted, called Shedd a “liar.”

So what’s the disconnect?

In a Sunday interview, Shedd acknowledged the Renacci campaign had been discussing holding three debates with the Brown campaign in those three cities. But negotiations hadn’t been finalized, and the Renacci campaign had hoped for more debates, particularly following the New York Times story, she said. The Brown campaign unilaterally made the announcement without coordinating with the Renacci campaign first, as a hasty attempt at damage control, she said.

“It was completely underhanded and ridiculous, and they did all of this to cover up what Sherrod Brown had done, which is commit to a debate which they know he can’t win,” Shedd said.

She said Renacci is interested in holding the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati debates — subject to negotiations on the dates, format and other details. The campaign is still hoping for a fourth debate — if not more — but if that’s not possible, they want at least one of the three debates to dedicated solely to taxes, she said.

In a statement, Mandi Merritt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, called on Brown to debate Renacci on the tax plan.

“Sherrod Brown should finish what he started and debate Congressman Renacci on the merits of the tax cuts - a debate that Congressman Renacci will easily win,” she said.

As for the Brown campaign, they’re not commenting beyond their initial statement. 

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