Fireworks erupted at Friday’s Republican Senate primary in Ohio when two of the leading candidates for the GOP nomination got in each other’s faces and nearly went full fisticuffs on stage.
Ohio Senate candidates Josh Mandel and Mike Gibbons were so close to blows that the moderator was forced to step in and get between the pair before the altercation could worsen.
Both candidates are currently sitting atop the polls, with Mandel being the consensus front-runner for months, and Gibbons coming on strong of late, surging to the top spot among GOP Senate candidates in two recent independent surveys.
A video of the incident that was shared on Twitter by Politico reporter Natalie Allison shows the exchange starting when Gibbons, a Cleveland investment banker, accuses Mandel, a former Marine and current State representative, of never having worked in the private sector.
“You might not understand this cause you’ve never been in the private sector in your entire life,” Gibbons said with a grin.
Mandel, clearly, did not appreciate the personal line of attack. At this point, Mandel stands up from his seat, meets Gibbons face to face, and shouts: “I’ve worked sir. Two tours in Iraq. Don’t tell me I haven’t worked!”
“You don’t know squat,” Gibbons responds.
The exchange continues as the moderator fails to successfully intervene. “You don’t know squat,” Gibbons said again.
“Two tours in Iraq!” Mandel shouted once more.
“Back off buddy,” Gibbons said.
“You back off,” Mandel snapped.
The moderator once again attempted to restore order, and this time gets them to separate. But not before they go back and forth one more time as they sit down.
Mandel said to Gibbons, “Watch this. Watch it. You’re dealing with the wrong guy. You watch what happens.”
“Pu*sy,” Gibbons fires back as he sits down.
Both Gibbons and Mandel campaigns say it wasn’t their guy who called the other “pussy” over the mic. Here’s a clearer video, where it looks like it could be Gibbons. A couple people in the room last night said it was Mandel. A real whodunit of the 2022 midterms. pic.twitter.com/D2usfDqoXe
— Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) March 19, 2022
The tense altercation came shortly after the debate kicked off. After the candidates gave their opening statements, the moderator asked his first question, which set off the fireworks.
The question was about Russia, China, and how Congress approved billions in aid for Ukraine, to which Mandel claimed that Gibbons made “billions of dollars” shipping Ohio businesses to China and owning a Chinese petro company’s stock, which forced Gibbons to stand up and respond to his accusations.
When he stood up, he looked at Mandel and asked Mandel to clarify his remarks about the Chinese oil.
“Are you saying I owned it?” Gibbons asked Mandel.
“You owned stock in it,” Mandel responded.
“I personally didn’t buy the stock,” Gibbons said.
“You made millions off it, sir,” Mandel added.
“I don’t think I made millions,” Gibbons said with a grin. “I would have loved to have made millions off Chinese petro.”
Immediately following this exchange is when Mandel jumped up and confronted Gibbons face-to-face.
Sensing his opportunity to kick the front-runners over their foolishness, JD Vance, another candidate for Ohio’s GOP Senate nomination, excoriated Mandel and Gibbons for their temper tantrum once the ruckus had cooled down.
Vance slammed Mandel specifically for using his military service record as a cudgel:
“I just [have] to comment on what we just saw.
As the only other person whose served his country in uniform – I enlisted in the united states marine core -… I think the way you use the United States Marine Core, Josh, is disgraceful. *
Think about what we just saw, this guy wants to be US Senator? and he’s up here ‘hold me back,’ ‘hold me back’ ‘i got two tours in the Marine Core – what a joke.
Answer the question – stop playing around.”
— Andrew Surabian (@Surabees) March 19, 2022
In a Fox News poll released on March 7, Gibbons led public opinion with 22% support, followed by Mandel (20%), and Vance (11%), rounding out the top three. Four others, former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken (9%), State Sen. Matt Dolan (7%), businessman Neil Patel (2%), and businessman Mark Pukita (1%), all checked in at under 10%.
The recent poll results showed a dramatic change in public sentiment from previous surveys, all of which had showed Mandel in the lead. Now, as the race comes down to the wire – Ohio’s GOP primary is currently slated for May 3 – things are tightening up at the top.