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GOP's Josh Mandel joins race for open Senate seat in Ohio

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FILE In this Nov. 4, 2014, file photo, Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel speaks at the Ohio Republican Party election night celebration in Columbus, Ohio. Mandel, a Marine veteran and former state treasurer, says he will make a third run for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, taking a pro-Trump message in a bid for the seat being vacated by the GOPs Rob Portman. Mandel planned to launch his campaign Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, against the backdrop of a second round of impeachment proceedings against the former Republican president. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Republican Josh Mandel, a Marine veteran and former state treasurer, says he will make a third run for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, taking a pro-Trump message in a bid for the seat being vacated by the GOP’s Rob Portman.

Mandel, 43, planned to launch his campaign Wednesday against the backdrop of a second round of impeachment proceedings against the former Republican president.

“This impeachment of President Trump is a complete sham and got my blood boiling to the point where I decided to run for the United States Senate,” Mandel said in an interview. He said he believes charges against Trump are unfounded and the proceeding is unconstitutional.

Mandel was the first statewide official in Ohio to back Trump in 2016 and he raised $500,000 for him in 2020, he said. His campaign will focus on common themes of economic freedom, individual liberty and the “America First” agenda.

“When I go to Washington, I’m going to go there to pulverize the uni-party,” he said. “The uni-party is what I call this group of Democrats and Republicans who sound exactly the same and are more interested in getting invited to the cocktail party circuit than they are in standing up for the Constitution.”

Mandel faces likely competition in a GOP primary from Jane Timken, who left her position as head of the Ohio Republican Party last week to explore a run, among others.

At least two Democrats, veteran U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who represents the blue-collar Mahoning Valley, and former state health director Amy Acton have also signaled serious interest in the coveted open seat after Portman won it handily twice. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus says it is working to recruit a Black candidate.

Mandel abruptly abandoned his last Senate campaign in January 2018, citing unspecified health issues being experienced by his then-wife, Ilana. His sudden departure ended his bid for a rematch against incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown, who defeated Mandel in 2012 and went on to a decisive 2018 victory.

The pair divorced in June, but Ilana Mandel said she will work to help him get elected.

“He and I remain close friends and committed parents to our three children,” she said in a statement released by the campaign. "A few years ago, Josh sacrificed a career opportunity when our family needed him to be home with us full time. I’m happy that he once again has a chance to serve and I fully support him.”

Timken has close ties to Trump. He personally backed her takeover of the state party four years ago from a state chair allied with then-Gov. John Kasich, a Trump detractor and presidential rival.

“With the support of President Trump, I stepped up to get rid of the Kasich regime and completely transformed the party into a well-oiled, unified, pro-Trump machine that won conservative victories and advanced an America First agenda at every level,” Timken stated in a Tuesday column for The Cincinnati Enquirer.

State Republicans have done well during her four years, and Trump carried Ohio by 8 percentage points in 2020. She would be well-connected and well-funded for her first statewide elective run.

But Mandel enters the race as a tested statewide candidate, having won two terms as state treasurer following a stint as a state legislator. He ran again in 2012, losing to Brown. He has about $4.3 million remaining in his Senate campaign account, and about $500,000 in a leadership PAC.

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Associated Press writer Dan Sewell contributed in Cincinnati.