COLUMBUS, Ohio – A suburban Cleveland state lawmaker has become the latest Republican to join the crowded GOP field seeking the nomination to replace retiring U.S. Senator Rob Portman.
Ohio Senator Matt Dolan (R24-Chagrin Fall) a three-term Ohio House member term-limited from seeking election to the state senate for a third term, jumped into the race with four high-profile contenders and several others lesser know candidates as the national GOP attempts to wrest control of the upper chamber of Congress in the mid-term elections.
Dolan, who serves as chairman of the powerful Ohio Senate Finance Committee, joins the race with 4 1/2 months before the filing deadline for the GOP primary, which is 6 1/2 months away.
“After meeting with Republicans, conservative activists and community leaders, it’s clear that the race for the U.S. Senate has yet to be about our people, our interests and our beloved state,” a statement sent to The Ohio Star from the Dolan campaign read. ”
Dolan’s business and political biography shows the Case Western Reserve University graduate had served as a former chief assistant prosecutor in his home Geauga County east of Cleveland and is a partner in the Thrasher Dinsmore & Dolan law firm, where he practices general business, real estate and municipal law.
His family also owns the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball franchise.
Dolan brings to the fray deep legislative experience vs. the collection of rookie candidates dominating the field with private-sector business experience. Those candidates, as well as former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, tout a populist brand of conservatism that made former President Trump popular with voters.
“Ohioans want a problem solver who successfully faced Ohio’s biggest problems impacting our quality of life, not a a political blame game that lacks common sense solutions,” Dolan said in his statement.
Still, most of the statement focused on many of the same broad political themes his opponents have pushed in recent months.
“Ohio is under attack,” Dolan said in his statement of candidacy, “by the socialist agenda being pushed by President Biden and Democrats like (U.S. Representative) Tim Ryan (D-13-Howland)(and Democrat running for the U.S. Senate seat) and (U.S. Senate Majority Leader) Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
“Over the last eight months, the Biden administration has unilaterally created a human crisis on our southern border, a national security crisis in the Middle East, and an economic crisis across America with rising inflation and the pending threat of a record tax and spending increase.”
He added, “Ohioan wants jobs, not a federal government paying people not to work. Ohioans want security, not a federal government who opens our borders and defunds our police.”
While well regarded for putting together the recent two-year Ohio operating budget as Senate finance chair, he also served on the Senate Energy & Public Utilities Committee and supported the House Bill 6 legislation in mid-2019 that sought to force Ohio electric ratepayers statewide to financially support a former First Energy Corp. subsidiary’s two struggling nuclear power plantsin its northern Ohio territory.
Passage of that legislation served as the conduit for a public corruption scandal where now-disgrace Ohio House Speaker is alleged to have bribed lawmakers with FirstEnergy campaign cash to pass the bill and supporting Householder’s return to the speakership.
FirstEnergy agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement in late July that calls for it to pay $230 million in penalties and to cooperate in the ongoing federal investigation. The General Assembly this spring rolled back the FirstEnergy portion of HB 6 with Dolan’s support.
Dolan, another GOP state senator and two GOP members of the Ohio House earlier this year stood with Democrats in not supporting the successful override of Governor Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill restricting emergency powers the executive branch.
Rival GOP reaction muted
DeWine’s move to restrict business activity and individual travel during the onslaught of the COVID-19 continues to enrage the bulk of the GOP legislative caucus as well as many conservative and libertarian voters in Ohio.
The U.S. Senate campaign of former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel declined to comment on Dolan’s entry. But he did send a recent poll done for the campaign showing Dolan’s support among likely GOP primary voters at 2 percent, about the same level as other polls released in late July and early August showed.
The campaign of Cleveland businessman and investor Mike Gibbons challenged Dolan’s conservative credentials.
“We welcome Matt Dolan to the field,” Gibbs campaign communications director Samantha Cotten told The Star in a text message. “His record of bending to the woke crowd is sure to win over Ohio primary voters.”
The campaign punctuated its sarcasm with a “Go Tribe!” ending in the text, a reference to the team’s decision earlier this year to replace the historic Cleveland Indians club name with the Guardians moniker.
GOP grassroots U.S. Senate candidate Mark Pukita also “welcomed” Dolan to the race.
“I guess we needed another establishment, non-conservative to the race,” Pukita texted to The Star. “The Ohioans I talk to don’t want that, but I welcome Matt to the race.”
Contender Jane Timken’s campaign declined to comment directly on Dolan’s entry into the campaign.
“Jane remains laser-focused on spreading her grassroots, America First message to every corner of the state,” the statement from Timken for Ohio director of communications director Mandi Merritt to The Star read, “and it’s resonating.”
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Brian R. Ball is a veteran Columbus journalist who covers the Statehouse and state government news for The Ohio Star and Star News Network. Send him news tips at [email protected]
Photo “Ohio Statehouse” CC BY-SA 3.0.