Republican candidates running in the May 8 primary for Ohio’s 16th Congressional District are, from left, Anthony Gonzalez, Dr. Michael Grusenmeyer and state Rep. Christina Hagan.
NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE Enlarge
WADSWORTH — As Republican congressional candidates prepared to square off for a debate Monday evening, patriotic songs like “The Star-Spangled Banner” were played on a grand piano and an Abraham Lincoln impersonator mingled with the crowd.
Hosted by the Wadsworth Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday evening in partnership with the Galaxy Restaurant and Banquet Center, the debate brought together the three GOP candidates on the May 8 ballot looking to win the 16th Congressional District seat held by Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, since 2010.
Renacci is running in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland.
Each candidate Monday — former NFL player Anthony Gonzalez of Westlake, Dr. Michael Grusenmeyer of Rocky River and state Rep. Christina Hagan of Uniontown — was allotted a two-minute introduction before answering 10 questions in a predetermined order with just one minute for each response.
The first question of the night went to Gonzalez, who was asked his position on balancing the federal budget and, if elected, would he vote for a budget that would add to the federal debt.
“Anyone who understands finance or accounting and looks at our federal budget knows that our spending is just wildly out of control,” he said. “I have always supported a balanced budget amendment. I think that should be the default position.”
In response to the budget question, Grusenmeyer said: “We are bankrupting future generations. It makes no sense to me. Yet we let our government do this repeatedly.”
Hagan said the debt is unacceptable and is a threat to not only future generations of Americans, but also to national security.
“I am the only person in this room on this panel that has the experience of balancing a budget deficit of 8 billion dollars in the state of Ohio,” she said.
The debate topic turned to gun legislation and the Second Amendment, with each candidate being asked what specific types of weapons the amendment guarantees Americans to own, and if they would support a federal law ensuring reciprocity for concealed carry permits across the nation.
“Reciprocity yes, limitations no,” Hagan answered. “I am a staunch defender of your Second Amendment rights and I am the only person sitting on the stage with a track record of defending them.”
Gonzalez said he also supports reciprocity and does not support any additional restrictions on “law-abiding citizens.”
“We have over 10,000 restrictions with respect to the Second Amendment. I don’t think we need anymore,” he said.
Grusenmeyer told the audience about working in a hospital emergency room during the 1980s when a serial rapist known as the Westside Rapist was attacking women.
“To say to someone, you can’t arm and protect yourself would be ridiculous,” he said. “Nobody is saying to take guns away from hunters; no one is saying to take guns away from the 99.9 percent of the people who are law-abiding.”
Candidates also were asked their position on building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
Grusenmeyer was the only candidate to oppose the creation of a border wall.
“Frankly, the dumbest drug dealer is going to be able to get through that wall in minutes,” he said. “I am not shaking in bed at night thinking immigrants are going to harm me.”
Grusenmeyer said he would rather see the government focus on combating the opioid crisis than build a border wall.
Hagan said the country “has to have an Americans-first agenda.”
“We have to build a border wall because it is a matter of national security,” she told the audience. “We are allowing drug lords to ruin our economy, ruin our families, ruin the social fabric of everything we know.”
Gonzalez said he is also in favor of building a wall.
“I think this is one of the key issues that President Trump has provided real leadership on in our country,” he said. “I fully support the plan that he has. I fully support a border wall, ending chain migration, ending the diversity visa lottery program and going to a merit-based system.”
A debate featuring the Democratic candidates running for the 16th Congressional District was held April 16 at the Strand Theater in Wadsworth.
Contact reporter Nathan Havenner at (330) 721-4050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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