GOP Senate Candidate Brags During Debate He's the Only One Unvaccinated

A candidate for the Republican nomination for the 2022 U.S. Senate race in Ohio claimed that he was the only contender at a Thursday debate who had not received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Mark Pukita, an IT executive, made the remarks during a candidates' forum at the North Columbus Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio and challenged frontrunner Josh Mandel to reveal his vaccine status.

Mandel, who is a former member of the Ohio House of Representatives as well as a former state treasurer, had previously refused to say whether he had received the vaccination or not.

The forum's moderator asked the candidates: "For the record, please share your views on this situation, and where you stand on government vaccinations and medical freedom."

When Pukita answered the question, he bragged that he was the only candidate on stage who had not been vaccinated.

Pukita said he had seen "very few" of the candidates "out on the protest line with me against vax mandates or masks."

"It's one thing to talk, it's another to act," he said. "I'm also the only one up here." Pukita referred to the fact that the candidates had been asked the question at a forum on October 14 and most of those in attendance had said they were vaccinated.

"The only person who didn't answer was Josh. Josh, do you wanna answer tonight?" Pukita asked Mandel.

Mandel said "sure" and then rose, took the lectern and responded to Pukita's remarks.

"My personal feeling is, it is not right for the government or the media or anyone to ask us if we're vaccinated," Mandel said. "So, my feeling is, for all of us out there..."

Pukita moved to take the lectern back from Mandel and was apparently concerned about the time he had left, saying: "I got 17 seconds. Thanks."

"I thought you were inviting me up," Mandel said, and added: "Sorry."

"I want you to answer," Pukita said. "I want you to answer."

"If we keep electing people like Josh, we're gonna keep getting the same results. And they stink," Pukita told the forum just before his time ran out.

There are seven Republicans vying for the nomination to run for the open Senate seat in 2022, which has been occasioned by the retirement of GOP Senator Rob Portman. Mandel is considered the frontrunner, while Pukita has not been included in recent polling.

During the Thursday forum, Pukita also defended himself from accusations of Antisemitism arising from a recent radio ad that focused on Mandel's Jewish faith.

"In terms of antisemitism, all I did in an ad was point out that Josh is going around saying he's got the Bible in one hand and the constitution in the other. But he's Jewish," Pukita said. "Everybody should know that though, right?"

Update 11/12/21 08.35a.m. E.T.: This article was updated to include a new picture.

Republican Senate Candidate Mark Pukita Points
Republican Senate candidate Mark Pukita points to a sticker depicting President Joe Biden. Pukita has bragged he's the only GOP contender who has not been vaccinated. Mark Pukita/Twitter