Ohio Republicans have their first official candidate for the 2022 US Senate race. Former state treasurer Josh Mandel is launching his third try at that office.
Though he’s run for US Senate twice before, and had filed paperwork to run for Congress in 2020, Josh Mandel says it was former President Trump’s impeachment that put him in the race that incumbent Sen. Rob Portman announced on January 24 that he would not enter.
Today I’m excited to announce that I’m running for U.S. Senate in Ohio.
Watching this sham impeachment has made my blood boil and motivated me to run.
I’m going to Washington to fight for President Trump’s America First Agenda. https://t.co/9MTG41r95g
— Josh Mandel (@JoshMandelOhio) February 10, 2021
Mandel is 43 and has been out of office since 2018, when he couldn’t run again after two terms as state treasurer.
His bitter campaign against Democratic US Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2012 was one of the most expensive in state history. Mandel praised Trump at the meeting of Ohio’s Electoral College in December 2016, just after launching his second campaign against Brown in a video full of Trump-type themes. Mandel abruptly scrapped a second campaign against Brown in 2018, citing the serious illness of his wife. It would have been only the second rematch for two Senate candidates in Ohio history.
But three years later, Mandel is still sounding the Trump call, in a state Trump won by 8 points last year - though he lost his re-election.
“I was the first statewide official to support President Trump in Ohio. I'm President Trump's number one ally in Ohio," Mandel said.
Trump was actually Mandel’s second choice for president in 2016 – he’d initially campaigned for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out not long after the Ohio primary. That was the only primary won by then-Gov. John Kasich, who most of Ohio’s elected officials were campaigning for – except Mandel. As he enters the 2022 Senate race, Mandel is loyal to Donald Trump.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook with conservative activists and Trump activists encouraging me to run," Mandel said. "And I'm confident with that support we're going to win this primary and then we're going to go beat Amy Acton in the general election."
He goes on to talk about the doctor who’d been a popular director of the Ohio Department of Health but quit after threats from opponents of the state’s COVID policies. Acton hasn’t announced she’s running for the Democratic nomination for Senate but left her non-profit job to consider it.
“And let me say something - Amy Acton, what she did in shutting down the state. She should be ashamed of herself, completely ashamed of herself," Mandel said. That echoes criticism from some state lawmakers who've complained that shutdowns have hurt Ohio's economy.
Mandel doesn’t say much about the woman he’s likely to run against, Jane Timken. She resigned as Ohio Republican Party chair last week, saying she would announce her plans soon but that she’ll advance what she calls “conservative, America First policies to strengthen Ohio."
Today, I am announcing my resignation as Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. I am confident that the work we have done over the last four years will leave our party in the best possible position to support Republican candidates up and down the ticket. https://t.co/04GSI5STlo
— Jane Murphy Timken (@JaneyMurph) February 5, 2021
But Mandel does talk about Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, the only Ohio Republican to vote for Trump’s impeachment in the House.
“He is a fake Republican. He was one of the 10 Republicans that voted for the impeachment of President Trump. And I think we need to get people like him out of the Republican Party and out of elected office," Mandel said. "And I'm going to be doing everything I can to support candidates who are going to go out there and beat Anthony Gonzales.”
Mandel said he would have voted with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and others who objected to the certification of President Biden’s win on the day of the Capitol insurrection January 6.
Mandel won’t say whether Trump won or lost, but does say he thinks there was "a ton of election fraud". There’s no evidence that’s true - even Trump’s former attorney general Bill Barr has agreed to that. And Trump’s team lost nearly every court case they filed.
Since his last campaign, Mandel has gotten divorced. He’s erased nearly all of his tweets, including controversial ones, saying that he’s concerned about what he calls Big Tech and cancel culture. And he also says he recovered from COVID not long ago, and that he’ll eventually get the vaccine.
U.S. Sen Rob Portman announced last month he wouldn't run again in 2022. He had endorsed Mandel in what was looking to be a crowded primary for the 2018 U.S. Senate race. Mandel said he'll welcome any endorsement, but suggests he won't pursue it.
Former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci has also expressed interest in running for U.S. Senate, as he did against Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2018. But he also is apparently considering launching a primary challenge against Gov. Mike DeWine in 2022.
On the Democratic side, along with Acton, Dayton mayor Nan Whaley is considered a leading contender, along with Youngstown-area Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH 13). Former Columbus mayor Michael Coleman has said he won't run but will weigh in on the race.