Rep. Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat who has represented northeast Ohioans in Congress since 2003, rebuked rival Republican J.D. Vance as an “ass kisser” during the pair’s first Ohio Senate debate on Monday night.
“I’m for Ohio. I don’t kiss anyone’s ass like him,” Ryan said in one of the most memorable one-liners of the night. “Ohio needs an ass kicker, not an ass kisser.”
Vance, a venture capitalist and author, shot back: “well-rehearsed line.”
Ryan delivered a similar remark in late September during an MSNBC interview, saying he thinks “Ohio does not want an ass kisser, Ohioans want an ass kicker.”
“And J.D. Vance sucked up to Peter Thiel, he got $15 million bucks for his primary campaign; sucked up to Mitch McConnell, got $30 million; sucked up to [former President Donald Trump]… he’s looking for a rescue squad and it’s not going to be enough to save to him in Ohio because Ohio wants a fighter,” Ryan added in the MSNBC interview.
In both the debate and interview, Ryan’s “ass kisser” line was a reference to Trump’s endorsement of Vance — despite Vance’s previous criticism of him. At a September rally for Vance in Youngstown, Trump said “J.D. is kissing my ass, he wants my support.”
“Yeah, he said some bad things about me, but that was before he knew me and then he fell in love,” Trump said at the rally. “Remember I said that about Kim Jong Un? He fell in love, and they said, ‘Oh, Trump is saying he fell in love.’ Actually he did, if you want to know the truth.”
Ryan argued Monday that Trump’s description of Vance was “bad because that means J.D. Vance is going to do whatever [Trump] wants.”
“Mitch McConnell has given him $40 million, he’s going to do what he wants,” Ryan continued. “And Peter Thiel gave him $15 million, he’s going to do what he wants. And here’s the thing that’s most troubling about this: lack of courage, is that after Trump took J.D. Vance’s dignity from him on the stage in Youngstown, J.D. Vance got back up on stage and started shaking his hand, taking pictures.”
Vance responded that he is “not going to take lectures on dignity and self respect from a guy caught on video, kissing up to Chuck Schumer and begging him for a promotion to his next job.”
“We’re even close to Halloween and Tim Ryan has put on a costume where he pretends to be a reasonable moderate…he’s said he stands up to his own party,” Vance added. “The last two congresses, Tim, you voted for Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden 100%. You consistently toe the party line on every single issue.”
The debate wasn’t all snark, and the pair did get into several policy issues, such as abortion, addressing China and responding to potential nuclear action by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.
Read more: Ohio hopefuls Tim Ryan and J.D. Vance debate abortion, inflation, Ukraine, China and Senate qualifications
The two candidates are slated to square off in a second debate next week in Youngstown, three weeks ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.