The List: Ranking responses to the Jan. 6 anniversary by Ohio's political candidates

From Jim Renacci's by-the-numbers, hard-right lurch to Vance's Twitter onslaught

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in Ohio speaking at the National Conservatism gathering, quotes Richard Nixon's statement about professors being the enemy.

On the anniversary of the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2020, most active Ohio politicians have been notably silent, at least on the Republican side of the aisle.

In an article published today, Spectrum News asked every member of Ohio's congressional delegation to reflect on the events of a year ago, when a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election, won by Joe Biden. Of those, seven Republicans declined response, including: Rep. Steve Chabot, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. Bob Latta, Rep. Bob Gibbs, Rep. Warren Davidson and Rep. Mike Turner.

This silence has generally rolled over onto social media, where even outspoken Trump defender Jordan has refrained from comment, most recently tweeting about a new Dunkin' location opening in Wapakoneta, which, cool.

One group that has remained vocal, however, are those Republicans currently running for office, including the slate of contenders vying for the Senate seat being vacated by Rob Portman, as well as one of the candidates attempting to run right of Gov. Mike DeWine in the gubernatorial primary.

Here, from least to most egregious, is how we'd rank the rancidness of these statements.

4. Jim Renacci

Renacci's gubernatorial hopes rest on being able to swing primary voters on the far right, so his campaign has largely involved attacking DeWine for any steps he has taken to combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (which, in the last year-plus, has consisted of precisely nothing). In regard to Jan. 6, this rightward lurch has meant embracing the occasion as an opportunity to blast Biden and the Democrats for waging "a distracting, divisive attack on Trump" rather than calling out Trump for his ongoing assault on democracy. Like much of Renacci's campaign, though, the statement feels both predictable and weirdly focus-grouped, with language that feels like it was designed with SEO in mind. (And does anyone really believe DeWine is a "liberal RINO"?)

3. Josh Mandel

This is pretty tame by Mandel standards. Honestly, the thing that jumps out most is his initial statement: "After talking with thousands of people in every corner of Ohio, I’ve been asked about January 6th exactly zero times." In a saner world, this would read as a giant lie. That it doesn't is a massive indictment of this current political environment, in which the Big Lie long ago became a part of the Republican platform, touted as Gospel by virtually every viable Republican candidate for office.

"We cannot have a functioning democracy if a sizable percentage of the population [are] living on two different planets. It's not possible. And that's something that should scare Republicans as much as Democrats,” Whitney Phillips said in a November 2020 interview with Alive. “If we can't figure out how to get that under control, we lose the United States." 

It's a statement that feels even more apt now.

2. Mark Pukita

Up to this point, the self-described "strict constitutionalist" currently running for Portman's seat is "best" known for the anti-Semitic attack ad he ran against current frontrunner Mandel. But damned if he didn't try to lower the bar by paying somber tribute to the true victims of Jan. 6. No, not the seven who lost their lives in connection with the attack, but the perpetrators who are currently imprisoned while awaiting trial. 

1. J.D. Vance

The budding fascist, most recently profiled by the Washington Post, has leaned harder into today's anniversary than anyone else on this list, tweeting throughout the day to offer support to the jailed insurrectionists (whom he labels "nonviolent protesters," of course), to brush aside what he termed "Democrats' claims" about Jan. 6, the violent nature of which was fully documented on video both by the media and by countless members of the mob, and to claim that the biggest threats to democracy are actually journalists, universities and Wall Street (?) rather than the attempted coup fomented by the administration of the former president. Also, his movie sucks.