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ELECTION 2018: Gibbs, Harbaugh spar in raucous U.S. House 7th District debate (UPDATED/VIDEO)

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    Democrat Ken Harbaugh, left, debates Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs for who will represent the 7th Congressional District at Ashland University on Monday.


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    Ken Harbaugh speaks in a congressional debate with Rep.Bob Gibbs at Ashland University Oct. 29.


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    Rep. Bob Gibbs speaks in a congressional debate Oct. 29.


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    Ken Harbaugh, left, speaks in a congressional debate with Rep.Bob Gibbs at Ashland University Oct. 29.



ASHLAND — Two candidates running for the Ohio 7th Congressional District traded barbs during a spirited debate Monday night at Ashland University.

U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, debated Democrat Ken Harbaugh, of Avon, before a crowd that, at times, became raucous. As expected, the two traded jabs about campaign hot-button issues like health care, coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, tax cuts, immigration and the opioid epidemic.

The debate took place at the John C. Meyers Convocation Center on the Ashland University campus before a large crowd of supporters for both candidates. The debate was moderated in part by Gazette’s Editorial Page Editor Brad Dicken.

The issue of insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions is a personal one Harbaugh said, after one of his daughters needed surgery at a young age.

“There is no fear quite like leaving an infant on the operating table and retreating into the waiting room having all that worry and concern about how that procedure is going to go and having added to that the paralyzing fear that decision is going to bankrupt your family,” Harbaugh said.

The Democratic nominee said Gibbs has voted 13 times to “gut protections for those with pre-existing condition.”

Those 13 votes, Gibbs said, were an attempt to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which he said has been “a disaster” and has cost people more money. The congressman said he supports protections for those with pre-existing conditions and always has.

“What we need to do is get competition back in the marketplace,” Gibbs said. “We don’t have competition in the marketplace. Let’s increase the health savings account, so people don’t have to pay for routine and preventative care. You’re lucking if you have one insurer in your county, if you have two insurers, you’re really lucky. There’s just no competition.”

Gibbs also spoke on the “booming economy,” which he said was due in large part to the tax-cut bill Congress passed last year, which has seen growth that “President (Barack) Obama said wasn’t possible.”

The two candidates took shots at each other throughout the debate with Harbaugh saying that Gibbs is never in the district and many people in his district don’t even know who their representative in Congress is. Gibbs said that 94 percent of the money raised for Harbaugh’s campaign has come from out of state and that liberals from Hollywood and New York are “trying to buy a seat in America’s Heartland.”

The crowd became vocal at times, including one moment after Gibbs misspoke, referring to President Obama when he likely meant President Donald Trump. As many of Harbaugh’s supporters began heckling Gibbs for the error, Gibbs turned to Harbuagh and said, “Can’t you control your constituents?”

Harbaugh responded, “They’re your constituents, Congressman.”

Gibbs repeatedly attacked Harbaugh’s stance on issues, saying, “He certainly has the Democratic Party talking points down.”

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.

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