CLEVELAND — The race to take on Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, could soon get crowded, with at least three prominent Republicans weighing whether to enter a primary field spearheaded by Matt Dolan, a wealthy state legislator. done for more than himself. Two months.
Cleveland-area businessman Bernie Moreno, who briefly ran for Senate in 2022, is gearing up for another campaign. He is booked for several GOP events in the coming weeks, including one is promoting him as a “potential candidate for the US Senate”.
“Don’t want to replace career politician with career politician?” Emily Moreno Miller, daughter of Moreno, a GOP operative attached to former President Donald Trump’s political team, Tweeted Sharing details about the event this week. “Be in Batavia, OH on March 27th.”
The Ohio contest is expected to be one of the worst and most expensive in the country next year as the two parties battle for control of the Senate. Brown, the only Democrat in Ohio who has had consistent success in statewide elections, is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents, along with Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, W.Va., and Jon Tester, Mont. Is.
Miller’s tweet was aimed at Brown – a three-term senator who has been in elected office for most of the past 50 years – and Dolan as well as another potential Republican nominee, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Dolan, a state senator whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball franchise, has served for years in the Legislature. LaRose, an Army veteran, was a state senator before winning the first of his two terms as secretary of state.
Brown’s campaign manager, Rachel Petrie, told NBC News, “Ohio activists know that no one works harder for them than Sherrod Brown.” “This record of fighting for the dignity of work will be the exact opposite of anyone nominated by a Republican.”
Moreno, a former car dealer, ended his last Senate bid months before the primary after meeting with Trump and determining he was too crowded to win. Prior to the 2016 election, Moreno was a Trump skeptic, calling him “crazy” in private correspondence with a Republican fundraiser that NBC News obtained two years earlier. But Moreno’s family has since drawn closer to Trump and made other alliances that could be useful in the primary.
His daughter, who worked on the former president’s 2020 re-election campaign, is married to Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, a former Trump ally. They married last year at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Course in New Jersey. And after his exit last year, Moreno became close with Ab-Sen. JD Vance, “Hillbilly Elegy” author who eventually earned Trump’s endorsement and won the primary. Moreno advised the campaign and was called on to play Vance’s Democratic opponent Tim Ryan in preparation for the debate, said a source familiar with the arrangement who was not authorized to speak on the record.
Moreno endorsed Trump for the presidency in 2024 in a guest column last month for the Columbus Dispatch. He recently attended the annual Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C. Moreno did not address attendees but worked the aisles, mingling with Trump-friendly activists and conservative media Persona.
In addition to the event this month in Batavia, near Cincinnati, Moreno is scheduled to gather with Republicans at a pizzeria ahead of the party’s dinner in Circleville, south of Columbus. Moreno is also scheduled to join LaRose at the Northeast Ohio Conservative Club dinner in May.
Meredith Freehoff, who chairs the Franklin County GOP in Columbus, said of Moreno, “I’ve seen that there’s a very popular grassroots movement for him and he’s very excited about it.”
Freehoff, whose organization is expected to endorse the race, said Moreno is the only candidate or potential Senate candidate she has heard from.
He said, “Bernie has reached out to me several times about the events he’s been doing.” “And I’ve participated in some of them. He hasn’t announced his candidacy, but obviously if he did I would be very happy for his grassroots people. He’s a good guy.
LaRose’s preparations for a possible campaign have also intensified in recent weeks. He visited CPAC, where he participated in a panel discussion entitled “They Stole It From Us Legally” with fellow Republicans Abraham Hamadeh and Lee Zeldin, election denialists who have run for Arizona attorney general and New York governor, respectively. Lost its 2022 bid. he was also enlisted Among the table hosts for a dinner hosted by Kari Lake, the Republican who has not accepted his defeat in Arizona’s race for governor last year.
LaRose has said she does not believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, but nonetheless received a re-election endorsement from him last year. He used his CPAC appearance to hold up Ohio, which Trump won by 8 points, as a state that conducts elections in a fair and responsible manner.
“We run our elections in Ohio so well, so transparently, so honestly that even the losers know they lost,” Laois said in an interview with NBC News at CPAC.
LaRose hasn’t set a timetable on a decision, but compared to Dolan and Moreno, he doesn’t have a deep reservoir of personal wealth if he enters the race.
“What I’m looking for right now is: Can I be my party’s strongest candidate for this office? I’ve seen some polling numbers that show me that I can,” LaRose said.
Another potential Republican entrant, Rep. Warren Davidson, got a boost this month at a private donor retreat for the Club for Growth, a conservative organization that has sided with Trump in recent months. David McIntosh, president of the organization, called davidson there Pledged to seek the Senate nomination and the support of the group, according to two sources.
Davidson and one of his political advisers did not respond to messages seeking comment this week.
The Club for Growth’s resources may help Davidson compete in a field with better-known and self-financing candidates. The group last year endorsed former state treasurer Josh Mandel, who finished second to Vance in the primary. Dolan finished a close third, and as a traditional conservative like last time, is gently urging the party to back Trump.
Democratic spokeswoman Nora Keefe said, “Republican primary dynamics are getting messier by the day, and whichever GOP candidate emerges from the infighting in Ohio will damage and decide the general election.” Voters who do will be out of step.” senatorial campaign committee
Unlike Moreno, Dolan has called for a competitive and robust presidential primary in 2024. Dolan has a head start of several months on staff, taking active operatives and fundraisers in last year’s primary — including those who sided with other candidates.
“In the short time Matt Dolan has been a candidate,” said his chief strategist Chris Maloney, “he has managed to assemble a top-notch campaign team, recruit grassroots volunteers and earn more than 100 notable endorsements from Republican leaders across Ohio.” have moved swiftly to do.”