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The Plain Dealer - DeWine, Brown Defend Votes During First Debate

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DeWine, Brown Defend Votes During First Debate

The Plain Dealer
Mark Naymik

The race for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat, fought thus far through television commercials and press releases, became more intimate Wednesday when Sen. Mike DeWine and U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown faced off for the first time.

Reciting each other's extensive voting records, DeWine and Brown, seated next to each other and at times nearly rubbing elbows, sparred for more than an hour over national security and trade policies, prescription drug plans, taxes and the war in Iraq.

The two met at a television studio at Lakeland Community College, where they were interviewed by two editors of the News-Herald. Reporters were allowed to watch the meeting, which was taped for possible later broadcast.

DeWine, a two-term Republican, charged that Brown's two votes against the U.S. Patriot Act - which gives the government broad powers to investigate suspected terrorists - put him in the "minority of even his own party."

"I don't question his patriotism," said DeWine, who supports the law. "I question his judgment."

DeWine also criticized Brown for voting to cut intelligence spending 11 times during his seven-term career, though he did not point out that many of the votes were cast before Sept. 11 and were in response to a ballooning military budget after the Cold War.

Brown defended his vote against the Patriot Act, arguing that it gives the president "carte blanche to break the law."

That comment drew a groan from DeWine, who responded: "There's nothing in the Patriot Act that gives the president the power to break the Patriot Act - and you know that."

Brown complained that as a member of the Senate's intelligence committee, DeWine failed to ask "serious questions" about weapons of mass destruction, intelligence failures or the administration's plans to leave Iraq.

They both became animated when Brown accused DeWine of being a rubber stamp for the president's Cabinet, especially for Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld.

As DeWine laughed at the assertion, Brown turned toward him and said: "I guess I would ask if he thinks Donald Rumsfeld has done a good job running this war."

Looking at Brown, DeWine said, "You know that I have consistently said that Donald Rumsfeld has made mistakes running this war."

Echoing his early attacks on DeWine, Brown also repeatedly pointed out that DeWine has received campaign contributions from big companies with interest in energy and prescription drug policies.

DeWine answered tartly.

"You seem to say that every vote I cast in the United States Congress is based on who gives me money," he said. "You may vote that way, but I don't. In fact, I don't think you do, either, and I certainly hope that you are not saying that I or anybody else in Congress does."

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