Fate of stalled semiconductor bill at center of Ohio Senate race

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Columbus, Ohio Inflation, guns and abortion are shaping midterm races everywhere. But in Ohio, a more niche concern — Congress’s competition bill in China and its $52 billion for the national semiconductor industry — caught the attention of candidates even as voters still wonder why they should care.

Why is this important: Senate rivals Rep. Tim Ryan (D) and JD Vance (R), along with GOP Gov. Mike DeWine and Democratic challenger Nan Whaley, all know the fate of the CHIPS Act could impact thousands jobs and have a long-term economic impact. consequences for the state.

The big picture: Intel is committed to stimulating a “Silicon Heartland” starting with a $20 billion project establishing semiconductor manufacturing plants in Licking County, outside Columbus.

  • This could create 3,000 full-time jobs there, as well as ripple effects for hundreds of vendors across the state and investments and partnerships with universities.
  • Passage of the CHIPS Act could accelerate and maximize the scope of the project. But if the bill doesn’t pass, some fear it could slow or diminish Intel’s engagement and shift money and jobs overseas.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threatened to sink the CHIPS Act if Democrats moved forward on a climate, energy and tax deal without GOP support.

  • Rather than back down, Democrats hope to muster the votes to bypass McConnell and secure the semiconductor funds without sacrificing other priorities.
  • With the bill stalled, Intel delayed a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for this month. Spokeswoman Nancy Sanchez told Axios that “although the ceremony is delayed, our construction plans have not changed” – but the scope and pace will depend on legislation.

Enlarge: In Licking County, where Donald Trump won 63% of the vote in the 2020 presidential race, swathes of cornfields, small farms and rural homes dot the area where Intel will begin building. Local governments have started hiring planning and development managers to be prepared.

  • Jamie Karl, director of communications for the Ohio Manufacturing Association, said the impact goes beyond central Ohio. “We have 1,500 members statewide…from mom and pop stores to Whirlpool and Honda – and almost all of them are affected by the chip shortage.”
  • “There are a hundred vendors in the state of Ohio who are going to supply Intel,” Ryan told Axios. “If you land a monster like Intel, it’s the start of an economic development cluster.”

What we mean: In conversations around the state last week, only some voters told Axios they knew about the CHIPS law controversy — and none called it key to deciding their vote.

  • Those familiar with Intel’s plans know they are huge. But there was a common refrain of “where is our Intel factory?” – revealing the feeling that resources are steadily flowing into the Columbus area while other parts of the state are being left behind.
  • In a tavern in East Dayton, Tommy Boyd, 66, an electrician who supports Donald Trump, and Rob Jones, 56, a funeral director and longtime Democrat, debated the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and whether Governor DeWine had handled the issue well. . Semiconductors were not on their mind.
  • A Republican retiree who attended a Ryan event in Cincinnati told Axios he might split his votes — DeWine for governor but Ryan for the Senate — because it bothered him that Vance had gone from criticizing Trump to courting Trump. when it was appropriate. Semiconductors are not part of this voter’s calculation.
  • “I don’t know what everything is going to happen” with the Intel factory, Edward Coil, 56, a machinist with Flex Machine Tools in Wapakoneta, told Axios. “But I think Trump will come back.”
U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan visits a machine tool maker in Wapakoneta, Ohio that has struggled to obtain U.S.-made components and find software talent. Photo: Sophia Cai/Axios

Donald Trump is not on the November ballot. But as Vance and Ryan vie for the title of Ohio Working Class Champion, Ryan makes McConnell’s bet with the CHIPS Act – and the future of Ohio’s semiconductor economy – a major issue of the campaign.

What they say : “This is a frontal attack on the state of Ohio, from a senator from a border state who is in a position of power,” Ryan told Axios in an interview between stops. campaign last week.

  • “Every Republican in Central Ohio and every voter in Ohio will know that Mitch McConnell blew this, and I’m going to hang it around JD Vance’s neck.”

The other side: Vance declined a request for an interview, but in a statement to Axios, he called the stalled legislation a bipartisan failure. “The death of the CHIPS Act is a terrible indictment of our leadership that does nothing,” he said.

  • “It has all the parts of the usual Washington story: a terrible problem, a group of local governments and businesses coming together to solve it, and the Democrats filling it with their leftist wish list.”
  • “Ohio may have just lost thousands of good jobs, and we may not have the computer chips to power the modern economy.”

Be smart: Both Ryan and Democratic gubernatorial challenger Whaley face tough competition. Sabato’s Crystal Ball last month rated the governor’s race as “safely Republican” and the Senate race as “likely Republican.”

  • Both Democrats see championing Ohio’s future role in the semiconductor industry as a way to show their commitment to creating skilled, well-paying jobs in the state.
  • “We have to pass that and then hit the accelerator pedal,” Ryan said. “It must be a down payment on the new industrial policy in the United States.”
  • “There’s nobody in Ohio who doesn’t want this plan to happen,” Whaley said.
Tim Ryan and Nan Whaley
Tim Ryan and Nan Whaley. Photos: Drew Angerer; Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Between the lines: Beyond semiconductors, Ryan and Whaley make various appeals to voters.

  • “Independent,” Ryan replies when asked to use one word to describe himself politically.
  • He thinks “we did the country a huge disservice when we started touting the idea that everyone should go to college.”
  • “I’m a Democrat, but I don’t think the government has all the answers,” he told a group of black entrepreneurs.

Whaley, former mayor of Dayton, is the first woman being nominated Governor of Ohio by a major party.

  • She offers a rare all-female post, featuring Cuyahoga County Council Vice President Cheryl Stephens. “Those doors have long been closed to women in Ohio,” Whaley said. Their platform includes investing in childcare and other issues that disproportionately impact women.
  • Whaley told Axios that the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade triggering state bans — like Ohio’s at six weeks — could drive participation more than the fate of federal semiconductor funding.
  • But both issues are impacting Ohio’s ability to recruit and retain women in the workforce, she said. “It’s not a place that says, ‘Yes, I’m welcoming.’ And I want talented women to come to Ohio right now.”
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