A heated primary debate almost led to a physical fight when two leading Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate got into each other’s faces in an argument about a stock trade and the candidates’ work history.
The tense exchange forced the debate’s moderator to pull apart the two Ohio Senate candidates — Josh Mandel and Mike Gibbons — who clashed during a GOP primary forum. The event was hosted by FreedomWorks at a venue just outside of Columbus.
In a video clip from the debate, which took place on the evening of March 18th, former state treasurer Josh Mandel stood up to challenge investment banker Mike Gibbons during a heated discussion over a stock trade as the crowd jeered the confrontation and a debate official attempted to separate them.
A video shared on Twitter by Politico reporter Natalie Allison shows that the exchange began getting intense when Gibbons accused Mandel of “never having worked in the private sector.”
The Daily Wire reported on the tense argument:
The row between the two candidates arose over an argument about Gibbons’ alleged business dealings in China. About half an hour into the debate, Mandel called out Gibbons for his alleged role in offshoring Ohio jobs to China. Mandel claimed that Gibbons sold a company called “Perfect Fit” to a Chinese company called Shanghai Shenda. He also claimed that Gibbons owned stock in “Chinese Petro.”
Gibbons responded to Mandel’s claims, saying that he did not know where the claim about “Perfect Fit” came from because he was not aware of the deal, and that he wasn’t sure what “Chinese Petro [had] to do with anything.” Mandel interjected, claiming that Gibbons had filed with the FEC, and “made millions off it.” Gibbons fired back that he did not personally buy the stock, and did not make millions off his investment.
Mandel continued to press Gibbons on his alleged Chinese dealings. Gibbons attempted to respond, but Mandel abruptly stood up and approached Gibbons.
“You’ve never been in the private sector in your entire life … you don’t know squat,” Gibbons claimed as the two stood face-to-face.
It was at this time that the debate’s moderator, Brandon Boxer, stepped in to try to separate the two men as fellow Republican primary candidates J.D. Vance, Matt Dolan, and Jane Timken awkwardly looked on.
But Gibbons didn’t appear to want to end the heated conversation, as he continued to verbally jab at Mandel, who stood up again and stepped back into Gibbons’ face.
“Back off, buddy, or you’re going to end up…” Gibbons said.
“You back off,” Mandel demanded.
“Never that’ll happen, never,” Gibbons laughed.
“Watch,” Mandel responded.
Gibbons then pressed Mandel further: “You’re dealing with the wrong dude,” he said.
“You’re dealing with the wrong [guy],” Mandel fired back. “You watch what happens.”
Watch the video below:
This is not an episode of Jerry Springer. It’s tonight’s Ohio Republican Senate debate.
“You’re dealing with the wrong guy,” Mandel says to Gibbons before calling him a “pussy.” pic.twitter.com/AbbyQpwXvu
— Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) March 18, 2022
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
Boxer finally managed to separate the two candidates, as their fellow primary candidate J.D. Vance also urged them both to sit down.
Vance, who also served in the U.S. Marine Corps like Mandel, condemned his actions, saying it was “disgraceful” how he invoked his military service during the exchange.
After the debate, a straw poll of about 400 voters at the forum showed majority support for Vance, with about 43 percent of the vote, while Timken earned second place with about 20 percent of the vote.
Gibbons received 16 percent and Mandel garnered only 4.6 percent in the straw poll.