VERSAILLES, Ohio (WDTN)– Several GOP Senate candidates met for the first primary forum Thursday night.

Candidates running will replace Senator Rob Portman next year, and they went head-to-head Thursday answering questions in front of a large crowd of residents. One of the most heated topics was their thoughts on COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“No politician or public official should ever tell you to be vaccinated, I’m against vaccine mandates from Joe Biden or from a private employer,” said GOP Senate candidate Jane Timken.

Questions regarding vaccine mandates, cutting taxes and protecting the 2nd amendment were among the highest on the list. On stage were Mike Gibbons, Bernie Moreno, Jane Timken, J.D. Vance, Mark Pukita and Josh Mandel. During the two hour course of questions, only one was optional. Moderators asked candidates who was and wasn’t vaccinated and why. All candidates answered the question besides candidate Josh Mandel.

“Nobody is going to tell me what to get and I don’t think anyone should tell you either, this is America, you make your own decision and figure it out,” said Mike Gibbons.

They all spoke directly to residents, vowing to protect every Ohioan’s rights.

“If the president of the United States, congressmen, mayor or school board is trampling our liberty and trampling our freedom, I’ll be their worst nightmare,” said Mandel.

Attention quickly turned to school board regulations and mask mandates for children. One candidate says he’s already been attending board meetings and making a change.

“I’ve been to the Board of Education three times, and the last time was last night,” said Pukita. It’s a misstep to put and push critical race theory into ohio schools and they repealed it last night, and I’d like to believe we played a part in embarrassing them.”

Others promised to go to battle in DC for laws against abortion and fight against vaccine mandates.

“We don’t need to give them to our kids or give it to people who don’t want them,” said Vance. “It’s about liberty and freedom and we have to fight for it.”

“I’d choose to be absolutely no one, I don’t want to be like any one of them,” said Moreno. “I think our entire system in DC is broken because we send the exact same people there time and time again.”

The Ohio Democratic Party released a statement saying they were disappointed with the event and many of the candidates were missing what means most to Ohio’s families.