As we get closer to the 2024 election, Ohio's Senate race will be one of the races to watch, with vulnerable Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown running for another term in an increasingly red state. The primary to see who will challenge Brown has also been one to watch, though, as state Sen. Matt Dolan, businessman Bernie Moreno, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose vie for the nomination. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) isn't getting involved, since Chairman Steve Daines (R-MT) says it's not a race they "stay up late worrying about." Candidates are still seeking endorsements elsewhere, though, and Dolan was recently endorsed by East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway.
Back in February, a Norfolk Southern train derailed, released toxic chemicals, raising safety concerns about the community, especially when it comes to the drinking water. Although Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited the town later that month, and former and potentialy future President Donald Trump made a stop the day before, President Joe Biden has yet to go. Conway endorsed Trump in April.
In a statement shared from Dolan's campaign last Wednesday, Mayor Conway spoke to Dolan's efforts to help the community. "In the aftermath of unspeakable tragedy, Ohioans came together from many walks of life to lift one another up and begin a recovery process that continues today. Through it all, one leader among many has stood out for his efforts grounded in responsiveness and results," Conway said. "Matt Dolan didn’t come here for headlines, cameras, or social media clicks. He quietly showed up, rolled up his sleeves and asked how he could help. Each day, Matt has stood with East Palestine and as we continue to rebuild, he’s focused on our community’s needs and worked with us to develop a recovery plan that gets results. That’s why I’m proud to stand with Matt Dolan."
Speaking with Townhall about the endorsement, Dolan emphasized the same points, namely his commitment to listening to residents and getting them what they needed. He said he's "very proud" of the endorsement, as "it reflects a lot about how I approach public service."
As "the tragedythat came upon East Palestine... required that they get help," Dolan explained his "style was not to rush there with cameras and social media" but rather "to figure out what their needs are and work with the appropriate government levels." He listed examples such as testing from the federal and state Environmental ProtectionAgency (EPA), calling it "equally as important" that they be "honest and transparent with the results." He also spoke to getting money for emergencyequipment and ensuring communications are improved for 911 calls.
Dolan said he did so not so much with a political endgame in mind--serving in the U.S. Senate--but rather how he could help. "And so I didn't go in there thinking about the U.S. Senate race," he shared. "I went in there thinking how I can help use my position as the finance chairman for the state of Ohio and the Senate and say, 'What can I do to help?' We were able to do that, and also want to send a positive message about what the mayor has done."
Dolan's message struck an equal balance of hope, while also calling out the Biden administration.
"East Palestine is on the rebound. There are issues that need to be maintained and monitored, and we will make sure Norfolk Southern continuestheir support. We will make sure that that federal EPA continues to do the work that's needed to make it safe," he shared, also stressing, "but I want toget the message out that the hard workof this mayor and other elected officials didbring East Palestine back, and it's not a dangerous place for the future, that it is a place where its future is bright."
When asked if he think it's "still worthwhile to mention the failures of the Biden administration," Dolan acknowledged it is. Dolan wondered "how can the President of the United States not address" what he described as "a very tragic" situation, especially as it "put people's quality of life and their long term health in question."
Biden had claimed over the Labor Day weekend he hasn't gotten to go since "there's a lot going on," and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has been saying for months Biden "intends to go."
REPORTER: "Can you give us an update when it comes to East Palestine? The president has said that he would go. He has not yet."— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) July 26, 2023
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: "The president intends to go." pic.twitter.com/MHb0twOExj
Dolan was firm in how "the President United States needs to come there and make a strong, defiant statement that we are not going to turn our backs on the residents of East Palestine," as he acknowledged Trump did that, and offered "I think those appearances are necessary for people's morale, and to know that the federal government's got their back."
He again brought it back to his own approach, in that "what really needs to be done is listen to the people, what do you need, how can we be of help," which he reminded is "the role I took."
All that being said, Dolan is running for higher office.
He acknowledged that "I'm not one who really talks about what I do, I just do it and then move on to the next," though he's "finding when you run statewide, you maybe should have spent more time promoting yourself but didn't but I still have a lot to talk about when I found that I am promoting myself."
The polls, including an Emerson College poll from last month, show that the race is competitive. Dolan had the largest lead, of two points, ahead of Brown. LaRose was one point ahead, while Moreno trailed Brown by two points.
When it comes to his primary opponents, Dolan argued "I'm the only candidate that doesn't need a lift," especially because he has "the most cash on hand." Moreno and LaRose, he suggested, "are running a campaign solely to win the endorsement of Donald Trump," adding "I'm running a lot of Trump policies, but I'm focused on Ohio."
Dolan did not seek Trump's endorsement when he ran last year to replace then Sen. Rob Portman, a fellow Republican who was retiring. That endorsement went to now Sen. JD Vance. Trump has yet to weigh in on this race.
"I'm focused on Ohio residents, but what we need to do to win, and to beat Sherrod Brown you better be able to have a conservative record that independent voters are attracted to," Dolan continued, explaining "there are more independent voters in Ohio there are Democrats and Republicans combined."
Dolan offered Republicans "need someone like me who can outperform President Trump by 11 points in Cuyahoga County," as well as his "message of getting things done," also speaking to having both private and public sector experience. "I think as we move closer to March, both Washington folks who are watching this race, but more importantly, the Ohio Republicans will see that I'm the guy who's gotten things done will get things done and can beat Sherrod Brown," Dolan shared.
Forecasters currently regard the race as a "Toss-Up."