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Mike Gibbons, Josh Mandel trade barbs at U.S. Senate candidate forum Friday night in Columbus

Mike Gibbons, Josh Mandel face-off at Ohio GOP Candidate Forum in Columbus
Mike Gibbons, Josh Mandel face-off at Ohio GOP Candidate Forum in Columbus
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 10:44 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOIO) - U.S. Senate candidates Mike Gibbons and Josh Mandel exchanged words and went nose-to-nose with each other during a forum Friday night.

The event, sponsored by Freedomworks, brought Gibbons, a private businessman and Mandel, the former Treasurer, together with Ohio State Senator Matt Dolan, former state Republican Chair Jane Timken and author J.D. Vance.

All five candidates are vying to succeed the outgoing Republican Senator Rob Portman in Washington D.C.

Leading into the confrontation, the candidates were each asked if they would’ve voted on the $14 billion humanitarian aid package Congress appropriated for Ukraine and what role the United States should play in the ongoing war.

Gibbons said he would’ve voted for the bill, that the conflict is sending a strong message to China that it could also invade Taiwan, and that the banning of Russian oil imports is not working because domestic oil production has been diminished under the Biden administration.

Mandel responded that he was in favor of sending American weapons to Ukraine to help in their defense against the Russian military, but also that Russia cannot be decoupled from China, and discussed Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 4 meeting in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

He then accused Gibbons of “making billions of dollars by shipping Ohio businesses to China” starting in 2015 with a company called Perfect Fit, LLC.

“Mike, why don’t you come up here and explain why you sold it to a company in China called Shanghai Shenda?” Mandel asked.

Shanghai Shenda Co. Ltd, is a Chinese company based in Shanghai that operates in the manufacturing, import and export of textile products, as well as property management, according to Bloomberg.com.

Mandel also accused Gibbons of buying and owning stock in Chinese petroleum companies.

When asked to rebut the accusations, Gibbons denied any involvement in either deal, though Mandel stressed that Gibbons had filed his stock purchases with the Federal Elections Commission.

Gibbons replied, “You may not understand this because you’ve never been in the private sector in your life. You don’t know squat.”

At which Mandel stood up and squared off with Gibbons, saying “Two tours in Iraq! Don’t tell me I haven’t worked!”

The moderator, Brandon Boxer, stepped in and tried to break the two up, as they continued to exchange with each other.

Mandel, trying to get the last word in, is heard making a derogatory remark to Gibbons before sitting down and Gibbons continued his rebuttal.

After the debate, Gibbons’ campaign issued a statement condemning Mandel’s actions.

“Josh Mandel is unhinged, unfit and flailing - because he’s losing. He is only a professional at one thing: running for office. He is hellbent on lying because he is failing. He doesn’t have the temperament, experience, or fortitude to be a U.S. Senator and Ohio voters got a first-hand look at just how unprepared Josh Mandel has become and that will be reflected on the ballot on May 3,” stated spokesperson Samantha Cotten.

Mandel’s campaign issued a statement early Saturday morning regarding the forum.

“Mike Gibbons got upset tonight that he was called out for his investments in Chinese oil.  He claims not to remember the investment, but it’s part of a pattern of Gibbons’ entire career making money by taking American companies and selling them to foreign interests.  While Ohioans are struggling to make ends meet in Joe Biden’s America, Mike Gibbons spent his entire career profiting by shipping jobs overseas and investing in places like China and Russia.”

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