The leader of the Strongsville GOP, Ohio’s largest grassroots Republican organization, told The Ohio Star why he, and his group, are backing former state treasurer Joshua A. Mandel in the fight for the Republican Senate nomination.
“We had our endorsement meeting last month, and we had more than 150 members in attendance, and overwhelmingly we voted to endorse Josh Mandel,” said Shannon Burns, the president of the Strongsville GOP and a member of the Ohio Republican Party’s Central Committee.
“There’s one clear reason why our members endorsed Josh Mandel,” Burns said. “He is the one truly reliable conservative in the race.”
Burns said his members trust Mandel because he is a known quantity.
He said other candidates had had both positive and negative views of President Donald J. Trump.
“There are some good people in the race, but quite frankly, you just don’t know where they’re going to be — five minutes ago, they were anti-Trump, or five minutes ago, they were doing deals with China, but now they’re America First,” he said.
“Josh has been a true — not just a reliable vote, but a reliable fighter and champion for conservative causes, since he was a councilman in Lyndhurst — he had a big spending-government mayor that wanted to spend their tax surplus on a new program,” Burns said. “He forced that mayor to do the first-ever rebate of property taxes in Ohio.”
The campaign technology consultant and CEO of Victory Solutions LLC said Mandel’s career ever since has shown him to be an active-motivated conservative.
“That’s the type of conservative Josh Mandel is, more of the ilk of Jim Jordan or Ted Cruz — and not of Mitch McConnell,” he said.
Burns: Gibbons is not a proven conservative
Investment banker Mike Gibbons was the subject of an article “Gibbons rises as Ohio’s Senate GOP primary nears the end,” which ran in The Hill Tuesday. The article did not cite new polling but made the point that Gibbons in the last three polls, including an Emerson College poll, showed him up seven points.
“It is not clear that he is the frontrunner,” Burns said. “It depends on what poll you are looking at — the poll that he puts out shows him the frontrunner,” he said.
“It’s clear that him and Mandel are close, but Mandel hasn’t spent money, and Gibbons has spent millions and millions of his own dollars pumping up his own positives,” he said.
Burns said Gibbons benefits from his vast television ad buy, but as the May 3 primary approaches, other campaigns will start their ad buys, too.
“The fairy tale will soon be over,” he said.
“Once voters start paying attention and see who he really is, it will be clear that the reliable conservative in the race is Josh Mandel,” he said.
Right now, most people have a favorable view of the Cleveland native, he said.
“I think Mike Gibbons is well-received by most Republican activists, he’s a nice guy, and he has a really interesting message,” he said.
“But, once again, it’s a huge risk,” Burns said.
“You just don’t know — his message is getting out there, but that’s what his money is paying for — it’s not what he actually is. You just don’t know for sure who he is,” he said.
The man profiled in the article “The Mini-Trump Blowing Up Local GOP Politics,” which ran in the Sept. 24 edition of Politico, said, one example is Gibbons’ position on abortion.
“He says he’s a 100 percent pro-life candidate, but in 2017, he was interviewed by the AP, and he said: ‘Yes, I’m pro-life, as far as voting, I’d have to let a woman choose.’ That’s not a 100 percent pro-life candidate, but that is what he says he is. That is what his money is saying he is.”
The Associated Press wrote: “Gibbons initially told AP he personally opposes abortion but, politically, he’s ‘not a woman’ so wouldn’t choose for them. He said he wasn’t ‘pro-choice,’ though, but ‘pro-people,’ in a June 2, 2017, article “U.S. Senate Candidate Clarifies Stance On Abortion.”
Burns said another issue is America losing its manufacturing jobs to China.
“He says he’ll be tough on China, but he’s done plenty of deals, where he has moved jobs to China in his professional career,” he said.
Burns on Timken: ‘She does not know who she is’
“I think Jane is a nice lady, but she has one problem as a candidate, and that is she does not know who she is, and because of that, it comes across to voters — they don’t understand who she is either,” said Burns. Jane E. Timken was the chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party from 2017 to 2021.
“There’s no clear message about who Jane Timken is,” he said.
“Every day, she is a different person,” he said.
“At one time, she is supposedly pro-Trump, she’s playing a fake ad on TV that makes it seem like she’s endorsed by Trump — which she clearly isn’t,” he said.
Burns said the ad’s voice-over is all Trump, but it is so deceptive that he is not surprised someone in the Trump world had not called for her to take it down.
Watch the Timken ad here:
“Then, she’s pulling the ripcord, so she can raise money, and getting the endorsement of Rob Portman.”
Retiring Ohio Republican Sen. Robert J. Portman, whose Senate seat is now up for grabs, was not a strong supporter of Trump, he said. “Portman is the exact opposite of what conservatives in Ohio want.”
Burns on J.D. Vance: ‘We were ghosted by him’
The campaign consultant said there is always the possibility of James D. “J.D.” Vance getting the endorsement from Trump that has eluded all four of the top Republican Senate contenders. “There’s always deals that can be done.”
Burns said his own experience with Vance soured him on his candidacy.
“I literally met J.D. Vance once, and it was at a private party as CPAC in Florida,” he said. The Conservative Political Action Conference was held in Orlando Feb. 24 through Feb. 27. “That’s not somebody who’s committed to the race — that’s somebody that’s committed to being on TV.”
“Quite frankly, he left the event early because he had to do a hit on “Tucker Carlson [Tonight],” which pretty much tells you the extent of his entire campaign,” he said. “He’s done his entire campaign on “Tucker Carlson [Tonight]” and ignored the actual voters of Ohio.”
Burns said that Vance has not put in the work to meet the people in his part of Ohio.
“Every single candidate has been through northeast Ohio — I’ve seen each of them five or six times minimum, some of them more than that,” he said.
Like all the other candidates, Burns said Vance received three invitations to speak at the Strongsville GOP.
“Some people would tell you that you shouldn’t do the third one when they ignore you the first two times, but we always do three because we don’t ever want to be in a circumstance where people say we weren’t being fair,” he said.
“What do the kids on TikTok call it now?” he asked.
“We were ghosted by him.”
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Neil W. McCabe is the national political editor of The Star News Network based in Washington. He is an Army Reserve public affairs NCO and an Iraq War veteran. Send him news tips: [email protected] Follow him on TruthSocial & GETTR: @ReporterMcCabe
Photo “Josh Mandel” by Josh Mandel. Photo “Mike Gibbons” by Mike Gibbons. Photo “Jane Timken” by Jane Timken.