Ohio GOP official's US Senate bid could mean bitter rematch

AP News
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Posted: Dec 07, 2016 3:59 PM

Republican Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel will again challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2018, setting up what could be a rematch of what was one of the country's most bitter, expensive and closely watched Senate races four years ago.

Mandel announced Wednesday he intends to again run as someone who is intent on shaking up Washington and will capitalize on the anti-establishment movement that propelled Donald Trump's presidential victory.

"I'm running to transfer the power from the politicians to the people. In that regard, our mission and message is very similar to President-elect Trump," said Mandel, a formidable fundraiser who has butted heads with Republican Gov. John Kasich over taxes and Medicaid expansion.

Soon after Mandel's announcement, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio endorsed Mandel who had backed Rubio's presidential bid last year over the home-state Kasich.

Mandel, a 39-year-old Marine veteran who did two tours in Iraq, pledged to campaign to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law and institute term limits for Congress — repeating a theme he sounded in 2012 when he constantly referred to Brown as a career politician.

Brown, a second-term Democrat who also served in the U.S. House and is a former Ohio secretary of state, has spent much of his life in elected office. He was among those mentioned as a possible running mate for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton this past fall.

Mandel has been the state's treasurer since 2010 and before that served two terms in the state legislature.

He lost to Brown by 6 percentage points the first time around, in 2012, a presidential election year that saw Obama carry Ohio at the top of the ticket. Brown was buoyed then by his support for the auto industry bailout and Mandel's opposition to the industry rescue that affected about 800,000 Ohio jobs.

Their first match-up was highlighted by an onslaught of negative ads. Conservative outside groups spent nearly $40 million in Ohio criticizing Brown.

Ohio Democrats on Wednesday brought up criticisms of Mandel that came out during the earlier campaign, including hiring friends and political operatives into his state office and being a no-show to some official state duties.

"Since Day One in the treasurer's office Josh Mandel has always been more interested in furthering his own political career than doing his job," said state Democratic Party spokesman Jake Strassberger.

Some questioned four years ago whether Mandel, who started his political career as student body president at Ohio State University and then became a Cleveland-area city councilman, had been damaged by what was a rancorous campaign against Brown.

Mandel said afterward that several Ohio Republicans had bounced back after tough defeats, including former Gov. George Voinovich and current Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Mandel this time could face a primary race against U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, who is thought to be interested in running for a statewide office.