Ohio’s Republican US Senate Primaries Are Gonna Be Lit

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Monday launched his long-anticipated campaign to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, but the new contender first needs to get past two wealthy foes in the Republican primary. “We need a candidate who has strong statewide name ID,” LaRose told Politico as he tried to contrast himself with those intra-party rivals, businessman ​​Bernie Moreno and state Sen. Matt Dolan, “I’m the only one that has that.” LaRose, who won reelection to his current post 59-40 last year, is indeed the only member of this trio who has prevailed statewide, though not all of his name recognition may be the type he wants.

The secretary of state has of late enthusiastically promoted Issue 1, a Republican-backed constitutional amendment to require 60% voter approval to pass future amendments. Despite earlier denials about the measure’s intent, LaRose told a gathering of conservatives earlier this year that the Aug. 8 special election for the amendment is “100% about keeping a radical, pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution.” (Pro-choice advocates have turned in signatures to place a separate amendment on this November’s ballot to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.)

Issue 1’s opponents have been all too happy to use his words in their ads to make the case that “[c]orrupt politicians and special interests” are “trying to rig the rules to lock in Ohio’s extreme abortion ban and stop efforts to restore our rights.” LaRose also attracted attention earlier this month when he allowed anti-abortion groups to use incorrect forms to request absentee ballots after Jewish groups, whose supporters are more likely to back abortion rights, used similar forms and were rejected. While GOP primary voters may appreciate his crusade to keep abortion largely illegal in Ohio, a failure at the ballot box next month could be a black eye.

Two months ago, LaRose was also in the news after Politico obtained what it characterized as a “secret recording” in which he played down the potential impact of a Donald Trump endorsement. The secretary of state, while acknowledging Trump’s support “matters,” argued only 20% of the primary electorate would “vote for whoever” the GOP’s master might prefer. LaRose added that, while he thought he’d get Trump’s backing, he didn’t think “begging for it” would work.

The new candidate seems to be sticking with that approach, as he didn’t mention Trump at all in an announcement video that highlighted his service as a Green Beret. Moreno, by contrast, has made it clear he very much wants to be MAGA world’s guy, and he may be in luck: Trump, while still not formally taking sides, said over the weekend, “We love Ohio, and we love Bernie Moreno.” Dolan, for his part, said during his failed 2022 campaign for the state’s other Senate seat that the GOP needed to move on from the Big Lie and Trump, though he hasn’t actually ruled out backing him next year.

LaRose joins the race months after both Dolan and Moreno kicked off their own campaigns to take on Brown, and they’ve used their head-starts to build up their respective war chests. Dolan, a Cleveland Guardians part-owner who took third place last year, raised only $300,000 from donors during the second quarter of the year but self-funded $1 million, and he finished June with $3.9 million on hand.

Moreno, whose April launch came three months after Dolan’s, took in $2.3 million during his inaugural quarter and had $1.5 million in the bank. Like Dolan, Moreno is wealthy, but even though he threw down almost $4 million of his own money during his aborted 2022 campaign for the Senate, he hasn’t self-funded anything so far this time. LaRose, for his part, will need to build up his own campaign’s finances from scratch, though he tells NBC he helped an allied super PAC raise $1 million before he entered the race.

Brown, meanwhile, has been preparing for what will be one of the most competitive Senate races in America as he seeks a fourth term in what’s become a difficult state for his party. The senator raised $4.9 million during the second quarter, and he ended last month with $8.7 million in the bank.

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

Ohio’s Republican US Senate Primaries Are Gonna Be Lit

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