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From left, Stacey Abrams, Shane Hazel and Brian Kemp debate during the Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young Debate Series in Atlanta
From left, Stacey Abrams, Shane Hazel and Brian Kemp at a debate in Atlanta, on Oct. 17, 2022.Ben Gray / AP

Midterm elections roundup: Debates turn up the heat in key races

Candidates in Ohio's Senate race, Georgia's governor's race and Utah's Senate race clashed in debates Monday night.

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Just three weeks out from Election Day, several candidates in key races took the debate stage Monday night. 

Perhaps the tensest matchup was in Ohio where, as NBC News’ Henry Gomez reported from Youngstown, the debate between Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance got personal when Ryan said that Vance “agrees” with the “great replacement theory.” (Vance previously accused Democrats of putting their thumbs on the scale by trying to “bring in a large number of new voters to replace the voters that are already here.”). 

Vance blasted Ryan in response, accusing him of being “so desperate for political power that you’ll accuse me, the father of three beautiful biracial babies, of engaging in racism.” 

In Georgia, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams sparred over abortion, guns and crime, with Abrams declaring she did not believe polling showing her behind. 

And in Utah’s unique Senate race between Republican Sen. Mike Lee and independent candidate Evan McMullin, the candidates sparred over the validity of the 2020 election. McMullin accused Lee of having “betrayed your oath to the Constitution” in the runup to Jan. 6, 2021, with Lee demanding an apology and adding that “there were rumors circulating suggesting some states were considering switching out their slates of electors” so he looked into it before voting to certify the election. 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail: 

Colorado Senate: Former President Donald Trump attacked Republican Senate candidate Joe O’Dea in a post on Truth Social. Trump wrote that O’Dea, who has said he would support other GOP presidential candidates in 2024, is a “RINO character,” and added, “MAGA doesn’t vote for stupid people with big mouths.”  

Georgia Senate: Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is stepping up his criticism of Herschel Walker, telling reporters after voting early on Monday that Walker is “not ready” to be a senator, NBC News’ Sahil Kapur reports from Atlanta. Kapur also writes about how Warnock’s strategy has differed from fellow Democrat Abrams

Ohio Senate: A new poll from USA TODAY/Suffolk University finds Vance narrowly leading Ryan with likely voters 47%-45%. And Senate Leadership Fund is up with a new ad that pokes fun at a recent spot that Ryan did throwing footballs.

Pennsylvania Senate: In a new ad, Republican Mehmet Oz tries to frame Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s ideas on crime and the economy as too liberal, arguing that “guys like John Fetterman take everything to the extreme.”

Wisconsin Senate: GOP Sen. Ron Johnson’s campaign paid a law firm of a Trump attorney tied to the former president’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, NBC News’ Natasha Korecki reports.  

Arizona Governor: Fresh off leaving the Democratic Party, former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard continues her streak of boosting Republicans, this time announcing she’s backing Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake.  

Nevada Governor: Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday his campaign raised $3.2 million in the third quarter, breaking what the campaign says is the record in the state for a gubernatorial candidate in a single quarter. 

Ohio Governor: The same USA TODAY/Suffolk University also finds Republican Gov. Mike DeWine leading Democrat Nan Whaley, 56%-38%. 

Pennsylvania Governor: A new television ad from Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro ties GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano to the QAnon conspiracy theory, citing his appearance at a 2021 conference

Iowa-02/03: The latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll finds close congressional ballot tests in the 2nd and 3rd Districts, where GOP Rep. Ashley Hinson and Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne are running for re-election. Tuesday’s debate between Hinson and Democratic state Sen. Liz Mathis was canceled since Hinson was hospitalized for a kidney infection, per National Journal. 

Michigan-03: The National Republican Congressional committee is teaming up with GOP nominee John Gibbs, a candidate who Democrats elevated because they saw him as a weaker general election in part because of a history of inflammatory statementsfor a new ad