Ohio Senate GOP primary pits 2 congressmen who think they can unseat Dem incumbent
CLEVELAND – A few blocks away from the Quicken Loans Arena, site of the convention where Donald J. Trump officially accepted his party’s nomination, an investment banker who has never held elected office is hoping to channel the president’s success.
“He’s kind of blazed the trail,” businessman Mike Gibbons told Fox News, about the president’s political career path. “He’s been very effective and accomplished an awful lot for the good of America, and I’d like to follow in his footsteps.”
Gibbons is one of the Republican candidates hoping to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
“We’ve put 65,000 miles on our car,” Gibbons said about his race to introduce himself to primary voters ahead of the May 8 primary.
The Senate hopeful’s biggest applause line at every campaign stop? “It’s my first line: the first thing you need to know about me is, I’m not a politician,” Gibbons said.
He’s facing stiff competition for a spot on the midterm ballot from Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, a member of Congress since 2011.
Initially a candidate in the Ohio Governor’s race, Renacci says he changed course at the commander in chief’s request.
“Really, it was a call from the White House,” Renacci told Fox News. “I’ve said that all along: poor kid from Western Pennsylvania gets asked by the White House to help, I’m going to do it.”
At a March event in Ohio, President Trump addressed Renacci in the crowd, to say, “Jim, get in there and fight, we need you.” But there has not been a formal endorsement, thus far.
Renacci was a businessman, like his competitor Gibbons, for several decades before his election to Congress in 2010.
The House Ways and Means Committee member insists his outsider mentality remains intact, despite serving in D.C. since the start of the decade.
“Politicians make their decisions based on the next election, not the next generation,” Renacci said. “Businesspeople make their decision based on the next generation.”
The incumbent in this race, Sen. Brown, was first elected to the upper chamber in 2006 and is well known as a progressive who seldom supports President Trump’s agenda – with a very notable exception, that could be on front pages until Election Day.
“I supported the President’s move on steel tariffs,” Brown said. “I think it’s time we draw a line on Chinese misbehavior.”
Brown, the only Democrat currently holding statewide office in Ohio, isn’t concerned with possible headwinds in November just because he’s a Democrat in a state President Trump carried by 8 points in 2016.
“I don’t think they – most people – think of themselves as an ideology,” Brown said. “They think of themselves as ‘I want what’s best for my family, my community, and my country.”