These Republicans want to send Sen. Sherrod Brown packing. Read how they answer our questions

March 22, 2018 GMT

These Republicans want to send Sen. Sherrod Brown packing. Read how they answer our questions

WASHINGTON -- To clean up the swamp, you must first win the right to live among the gators.

This explains why five Ohioans are vying to win the May 8 Republican U.S. Senate primary election. The winner will take on incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, in November, and if successful, spend many of his or her days working in a city whose ways they, like many other Americans, seem to despise.

Despite their individual differences, each of the five Republicans would vote to impose more abortion restrictions, unlike Brown, and each holds different views from Brown on gun laws. They’d cut spending they say is wasteful or abused.

Some say the recent tax cuts will fuel the economy, while Brown says the cuts for the richest Americans will just make the wealthy even richer -- and that some of the money from repatriated corporate cash, a result of the cuts, should go toward roads, bridges and other infrastructure that needs repair.

The Republicans disagree among each other on raising the age for Medicare eligibility and making food stamp recipients work more hours -- both proposals that Brown opposes. Yet even when they agree with the senator -- which is pretty much never, says one -- each says he or she would bring a sensibility far different from Brown’s to the Senate.

But what makes Jim Renacci a better or worse choice than Melissa Ackison, to name two of the five? What about Mike Gibbons’ considerable business experience as a Cleveland-based investment banker and financier? Is that better than the experience of a lesser-known candidate from Greater Cincinnati, Dan Kiley, who has advised mom-and-pop retirees on managing their savings?

How about Don Elijah Eckhart, who as a fiscal analyst helped keep the city of Dayton’s and the state of Ohio’s budgets in balance? This is his second run at the Senate, and in the 2016 primary against incumbent Rob Portman, he got nearly 18 percent of the GOP support, or 290,268 votes. 

To better see the candidates’ distinctions, cleveland.com gave all five of the Republicans a set of eight questions. Topics included firearms, food stamps, Medicare, tariffs on foreign steel, earmarks, differences with Brown and differences with President Donald Trump, himself a Republican. Some of their answers:

“You can weaponize anything; from cars, to box-cutters, common household cleaning products etc. Banning and modifying the rights of law abiding citizens is not somehow going to curtail the evil that exists in this world.” This is Ackison’s view on proposed gun restrictions.

“I oppose earmarks for two reasons: they tend to increase spending, and they give special treatment which benefits certain members of Congress.” This is the assessment of Eckhart, who unlike Trump does not want to consider returning to a system whereby congressional favors and pork were traded and negotiated, sometimes in private as a way to get support for a broader bill.

“Very few countries allow abortions after 20 weeks and it sickens me that the United States is still one of them.” With this, Renacci leaves no question where he stands on abortion.

“You can’t beat a career politician with a career politician.” This is Gibbons’ way of saying he could beat Brown and Renacci couldn’t.

Brown supports abortion rights. He wants restrictions on so-called assault weapons. When earmarks were allowed, he used them to bring money to Ohio for projects he says might not get built or be funded otherwise.

Some of the differences these Republicans have with Brown are borne of straightforward philosophical beliefs about the role of government. Others are far more nuanced, with religion (Christ or the Bible were mentioned by some), the NRA and business experience thrown in.

To see what each candidate said about Brown, Trump, guns, Medicare and more, go to these links:

Melissa Ackison

Let’s deal with mental health and morality, not gun restrictions, Ackison says

Don Elijah Eckart

Trump’s tariffs could force consumers and businesses to pay higher costs, Eckhart says

Mike Gibbons

“I can’t think of a vote where I would have agreed with Sherrod Brown,” Mike Gibbons says

Dan Kiley

Medicare’s eligibility age should rise, but leave the food stamp work requirement alone, Kiley says

Jim Renacci

This country’s abortion policies “sicken” Renacci, a U.S. House member who wants to move to the Senate.

After reading their answers, come back here, sign in to the comments and discuss which candidate, if any, you prefer.