Josh Mandel Enters Ohio Senate Race

By John Celock

Seeking a rematch from 2012, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) has announced his plans to run for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

Mandel on Wednesday formally kicked off his to challenge U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), who defeated him in 2012. Mandel used a video to announce his challenge and outline a platform that stands similar to the plans being outlined by President-elect Donald Trump.

“It’s time to transfer the power from the politicians to the people,” Mandel said. “To give everyday Ohioans the freedom to live the life they want to live and the opportunity to work the job they want to work.”

Mandel has long been expected to challenge Brown in 2018, with the two-term state treasurer positioning himself for a rematch almost as soon as Brown defeated him in 2012 by 51 percent to 45 percent. Ohio Democrats had made the 39-year-old Mandel a top target in 2014, seeking to derail his campaign for a second term in the treasurer’s office and prevent him from seeking higher office in 2018.

In his announcement Mandel pointed to his two tours in Iraq as a Marine and his family’s history, saying that he came from a “family of fighters.” He noted that one of his grandfathers fought in World War II for the United States, while his other grandfather was in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He said that his other grandmother was helped by Christians to survive the Holocaust.

“I am here today because they all won their fights,” Mandel said.

Mandel’s announcement touched on many points that have been highlighted by Trump this year, including a need to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Mandel also called for term limits and new immigration policies, which he did not outline. He also said that those in Washington do not use the words “radical Islam” but said the term needs to be used.

Most people think Washington is broken, but in reality it is a rigged system,” Mandel said in terms similar to Trump.

While Mandel supported Trump in the general election, he was Ohio’s most prominent supporter of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the GOP presidential primaries. Mandel’s support of Rubio came in contrast to the rest of Ohio’s statewide officials and Republican leaders who had lined up behind Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign.

Mandel had been a top GOP recruit nationally in the 2012 contest, entering the race shortly after taking office as state treasurer in 2011. Mandel’s 2012 run had garnered support from many groups outside Ohio, interested in unseating Brown, one of the more progressive members of the Senate.

Mandel’s 2012 campaign was marred in a series of “pants on fire” awards from Politifact, which highlighted a series of untrue statements from Mandel. Mandel also faced a long running battle with Democrats seeking the resumes of his top staffers in the treasurer’s office. Mandel consistently declined records requests for the resumes before finally releasing them.

Mandel has sought to promote a transparency agenda since the 2012 campaign. He has been promoting his Ohio Checkbook initiative around the state. Under the program, he is seeking for local governments around the state to make their spending records available online.

While Mandel, who is term-limited in the treasurer’s office, has been positioning himself for a rematch against Brown, he may not see the same clear path to the Republican nomination that he had in 2012. U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, a Kasich ally, is also exploring seeking the GOP Senate nomination.

Brown is likely to be a top Democrat candidate nationally in 2018, as Democrats seek to protect the only member of their party to hold statewide office in Ohio. Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, will also likely see support from progressive groups looking to keep him in the Senate to work on banking reform issues. Brown has also consistently had backing from unions.

Mandel touched on Brown’s likely strong support nationally by saying that the two-term senator would have “a Washington machine behind him.” Several of Brown’s top staffers from 2012 have since relocated to Washington, taking positions with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and groups aligned with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Mandel has long been a viewed as a rising star in Ohio politics. In 2003 he was elected to the Lyndhurst city council, where he focused on budget and tax issues, including proposing a property tax rebate of $400 one year and a roughly $100 a year property tax cut. Mandel’s property tax cut passed at roughly $75 a year per homeowner.

In 2006, Mandel was elected to the first of two terms in the state House of Representatives and he was elected to the treasurer’s office in 2010.

Mandel is part of a series of young veterans running for office, including the U.S. Senate. Among other young veterans in office is Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), who unsuccessfully sought a Senate seat this year, newly elected Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber, an outgoing state legislator, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D), who explored a run for New Jersey governor next year, and Erie County, Penn. Councilman Jay Breneman (D), who is running for mayor of Erie next year.

Mandel’s run comes in what is expected to be a competitive election year in Ohio. All of Ohio’s constitutional officers are term-limited creating competitive races across the board in the swing state.

Mandel is unlikely to be the only young candidate seeking statewide office in Ohio in 2018, but he is likely to be the oldest of the group and the only Republican. State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D), 34, is considered a potential candidate for secretary of state, Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld (D), 32, is a potential candidate for state treasurer, and Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer (D), 31, is considering a bid for state auditor. Sittenfeld unsuccessfully sought the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination this year.

Mandel continued his theme of fighting by saying that he is willing to face whatever challenges come in the race and if elected.

“I will never back down from our enemies,” he said.