Tuesday night on NBC affiliates across Ohio, there was a one-hour debate on Issue 2, the statewide ballot referendum asking voters whether or not Senate Bill 5 should be repealed.
Issue 2 is a referendum on Senate Bill 5, a new law that made changes to a variety of government laws and policies, including collective bargaining rights for some state workers.
The bill was signed into law by Governor John Kasich March 31. A "yes" vote would keep the law, a "no" vote would be a vote to repeal the law.
In Columbus, the one-hour debate saw state Sen. Keith Faber, of "Building a Better Ohio," who defended Issue 2, go up against former Ohio Congressman Dennis Eckart, of "We Are Ohio," who opposes Issue 2.
Eckart stressed that Issue 2 "turns collective bargaining into collective 'begging,'" and that it was a slap in the face to teachers, police and firefighters whose job it is "to nurture, to save, and to serve."
Faber asked voters to "listen to the facts tonight" and said that those who want you to vote against Issue 2 will "try and scare you," making you think that you will be in danger if Issue 2 passes.
Eckart characterized Republican Gov. John Kasich as "a governor who masquerades as Robin Hood" and "this Robin Hood approach has to end."
Faber talked about how public employees' pensions were not affected by the downturn in the economy," to which Eckart responded that "public employees don't get Social Security."
Channel 3's Beres asked about what is being called "Granny-gate," where a Cincinnati great-grandmother had her words in a TV commercial against Issue 2 "twisted" and used by proponents of Issue 2 in their own TV ad.
Faber said he could not answer for those who made the commercial.
Eckart said that "public employees are 7 percent of the population that protects 100 percent of the population."
Faber, in his closing remarks, said that those who want you to vote no on Issue 2 "will try and scare you" into thinking you might be in danger with reduced safety forces if Issue 2 passes.
Eckart closed with, "Vote no on Issue 2 as if your life depended on it, because that just may be the case."
NBC's Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd moderated the debate. WKYC Senior Political Correspondent Tom Beres served as one of the panelists. The two other panelists were WCMH Anchor Colleen Marshall and Anchor/Reporter Sheree Paolello from WLWT.
Immediately following the debate, spokespersons for both sides claimed victory, issuing statements.
Building a Better Ohio wrote:
"Keith Faber dominated this discussion because he made a powerful case about why the current government employment policies are broken, and they're crippling taxpayers and local communities," said Jason Mauk, spokesman for the campaign.
"We have a choice about the direction of our state. We can keep doing business as usual and continue to lay off good teachers, firefighters and police officers, or we can embrace some reasonable reforms that will get the cost of government under control. It's not a value judgement about our government employees. It's a math problem."
We Are Ohio wrote, in part:
"Tonight on behalf of We Are Ohio, Dennis Eckart stood proudly on the side of hardworking Ohioans who understand that Issue 2 is unfair, unsafe and will hurt our local communities. Former Congressman Eckart represented more than 1.3 million Ohioans who signed petitions to give voters an opportunity to stop Senate Bill 5 by voting no on Issue 2. As the representative for We Are Ohio, Dennis clearly showed why this flawed bill is out of touch with Ohio values and how it will negatively impact public employees and their communities."
"Congressman Eckart won this debate because he has the facts and the people of Ohio on his side. This debate once again reinforced the fact that we need to Vote No on Issue 2 because it makes it illegal for first responders to collectively bargain for safe staffing levels and it makes it harder to get vital safety equipment that will save lives."