Exclusive: GOP Governor Hopeful Renacci Tells Why He Named Pro-Life Filmmaker Joe Knopp His Running Mate


The former congressman and main challenger to Ohio Gov. R. Michael DeWine for the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination announced today, Joe Knopp, the producer of the pro-life film “Unplanned” agreed to be his lieutenant governor running mate.

“I picked a guy who’s going to help me get elected and help me govern,” said James B. “Jim” Renacci, who June 9 announced his own candidacy for governor.

In addition to being a producer for “Unplanned,” the 2019 true-life film about Abby Johnson’s transformation from a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director to becoming an advocate for the unborn and a leader in the pro-life movement, Knopp also produced the 2015 film “Woodlawn” and the 2018 film “I Can Only Imagine.”

The film “I Can Only Imagine,” which starred Dennis Quaid, Trace Adkins and Cloris Leachman, grossed more than $85 million and was produced for $7 million.

Knopp’s 2020 film “The Trump I Know” was a behind-the-scenes look at the women in President Donald J. Trump’s political, business and family life and interviewed them about their relationships with the president.

Amazon refused to allow “The Trump I Know” on its video platform until two days after the 2020 presidential election.

Renacci said Knopp, a Springboro resident, has made powerful movies and has excelled both as a creative person and as a businessman.

“I love his films,” he said.

“I challenge anybody to watch all of his films,” he said. “They are very, very emotionally-charged true stories and ‘Unplanned’—it’s a little against the grain—but also something that is an intense and telling story.”

Renacci: Knopp and I are both outsiders

“We are two outsiders that have a lot of things in common when it comes to realizing anything is possible in this great state, but nothing is guaranteed,” Renacci said.

The businessman, who was the GOP’s 2018 Senate nominee, said he took the process of picking a running mate very seriously, because he wanted to present an alternative to DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon. A. Husted – both men have accumulated more than six decades in public office.

“I put together a team of people who will help me select a lieutenant governor and we spent the last few months interviewing people and meeting with people and Joe and I got to know each other most recently of the bunch,” he said.

“The great thing about Joe is the fits the outsider-businessman criteria, and he’s also somebody who like me that started out with very little – in fact, he started off in worse than me,” he said.

“He was living on the streets with his two sisters and mother and then going to an orphanage, where he lived until he was a senior in high school,” Renacci said.

When Knopp realized he did not have the money to go to college, he enlisted in the Air Force for six years, where he also earned his finance degree, he said.

Renacci said Knopp’s life experiences give him the ability to bring the outsider’s perspective inside his administration.

“In a state that is full of corruption, we need some outsiders.”

Renacci, Knopp to campaign throughout the state

“We will start traveling the state together and separately,” Renacci said. “I have such high confidence in him that I think he will go one direction and I’ll go another direction. It’ll be the way of getting as much accomplished throughout the state as we can.”

The former congressman said he welcomed Knopp’s input in the campaign’s messaging.

“He does have a creative background and he has said many times to me: ‘Your story not told well enough’ and he said: ‘I can help tell that story.’”

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Neil W. McCabe is the political editor of The Star News Network. Follow him on Twitter: @neilwmccabe2.
Photo “Joe Knopp” by Joe Knopp.




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