Watch: GOP Ohio Senate Race Heats Up With Near On-Stage Brawl Between Gibbons and Mandel

Jay LaPrete

The Republicans in Ohio staged a debate on Friday night that proved to be a typically boring affair until businessman Mike Gibbons and Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel almost came to blows.


The two candidates are running neck and neck in the polls for the Ohio GOP Senate nomination, and both candidates are vying for the attention and endorsement of former president Donald Trump.

So when Gibbons accused Mandel of never having been in the private sector, Mandel took offense. He claimed that Gibbons had made millions from business dealings with Chinese companies while moving several of his businesses offshore, costing Americans jobs.

“You may not understand this,” Gibbons told Mandel, who then stood up from his seat and confronted Gibbons at the event hosted by FreedomWorks.

“I do,” Mandel replied.

“You have never … you have never been in the private sector in your entire life,” Gibbons told Mandel.

“Two tours in Iraq. Don’t tell me I haven’t worked,” Mandel responded, raising his voice to Gibbons.

A moderator approached the two men and attempted to defuse the situation. As Mandel was taking his seat, Gibbons said, “You don’t know squat,” prompting Mandel to rise from his seat again. Gibbons then told Mandel to “back off.”


Gibbons immediately tried to make political hay out of the tussle, calling Mandel “unfit” and “childlike.”

The other candidates all agreed that the display reflected poorly on the entire Republican Party.

The confrontation between Gibbons and Mandel doesn’t reflect well on the Republican Party, Vance told The Enquirer on Saturday.

“It was embarrassing, especially for those involved, ” Vance said “I think it was embarrassing for the whole party.”

Mandel came off looking the worst, Vance said.

Former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken, also running in the Senate primary, echoed Vance’s verdict, calling the event “embarrassing.”  Matt Dolan, another GOP candidate, said Ohio voters deserved better.

“America is in crisis and we need adult leadership,” he said in a statement.


The confrontation did neither candidate any good. A straw poll of the 400 people in the audience taken immediately after the debate from FreedomWorks showed Mandel coming in last out of five with 5%. Gibbons came in third with 16%.

The retiring Sen. Rob Portman has endorsed Timken, but that apparently hasn’t helped her campaign. And Trump is keeping his powder dry as the spectacle of Mandel, Gibbons, and Vance all trying to out-Trump Trump to gain his endorsement is dominating the race.

The race is as much about Trump as it is anything else. And that’s just how Trump wants it.


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