The Republican race for U.S. Senate in Ohio appears to be in flux with the front runner out, the remaining candidate promising a huge cash infusion of his own money, and a conservative author and a candidate for governor both considering runs.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Gibbons is hoping the $5 million cash infusion he will give his campaign delivers a message to any potential rivals in the Republican primary now that Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has dropped out of the race.
“I think that was somewhat strategic, because other people may be joining this race. And I want them to know I’m serious,” Gibbons said during an exclusive interview with Cox Media Group reporters in Dayton. “And I’m going to win this.”
Gibbons said he had not done a good job raising money from other sources but “that’s all changing.”
Late Wednesday, sources told the Dayton Daily News that U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, will drop out of the race for governor and run for U.S. Senate.
In a Monday interview on the “Wills and Snyder Show” on WTAM radio in Cleveland Renacci said he would consider joining the senate race if President Donald Trump asks him to, according to Renae Eze, campaign press secretary.
The winner of the Republican primary would face U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in the Nov. 6 General Election. The primary filing deadline is Feb. 7.
Gibbons, a Cleveland investment banker, may face a GOP challenge from U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, who is currently running for governor, and J.D. Vance, the bestselling author of “Hillbilly Elegy.”
Jai Chabria, a former aide to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and close ally of Vance, said Vance is seriously considering running for the GOP nomination in the U.S. Senate race.
“It has been amazing how many Ohio leaders and people who have an interest in the Senate race want J.D. to run because they know he has the best message against Sherrod Brown in November,” Chabria said.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones on Wednesday announced he will not run for the nomination.
Gibbons, whose campaign says his net worth is $90 million to $100 million, has already spent about $1 million of his own money on the Senate race. When Mandel dropped out on Friday due to his wife’s health problems, Gibbons pledged he would spend an additional $5 million “if needed to win,” according to his campaign.
Gibbons said he is unconcerned about reports that top Republicans are trying to recruit someone to replace Mandel in the race.
“I am an unknown. I’ve obviously rubbed some feathers the wrong way,” Gibbons said. “I think they are more concerned, ‘Am I going to be a team player?’ and I am.”
Gibbons said he called Mandel after he withdrew from the race.
“He hasn’t returned my call,” Gibbons said. “I’m sure he has a lot more important calls to return right now than me.”
As a first time candidate for any public office, Gibbons says he is not a part of the “establishment” and he believes his business background gives him the skills needed to be a senator.
“I think when people hear my message I’m going to have a very good chance of beating Sherrod Brown,” Gibbons said.
“Mike Gibbons is a longtime supporter of policies that cater to out-of-touch corporate executives, like himself,” said Jake Strassberger, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party. “He’s the last person who should be talking about hardworking Ohioans and their struggles to get ahead.”
Gibbons said the government is too involved in health care and that has distorted prices. He said he would not end Medicare but thinks it needs to be changed to have a stronger “free enterprise component.” Gibbons called for rewarding people for choosing “equal quality, lower cost” medical procedures and treatments. He said there is not competition in the health insurance industry.
“One of the problems we have is it’s become employer-provided health care. If we do it right we can change that,” said Gibbons, “I might create a competition with, for lack of a better term, a voucher system.”
He also wants to expand the massive tax cut that was passed in December to make it permanent to individuals and more generous to small businesses.
“I had to lay people off and not hire people because I was paying so much to the government in taxes,” said Gibbons, who aside from being an investment banker is also in the real estate business.
Gibbons believes the tax cut will fuel the economy, creating more government revenue he would spend on the military, and also lead to higher wages. He said he doesn’t know any employer “that doesn’t want to pay their people more wages.”
One the one hand Gibbons touted the country’s economic growth, but he also said the government is thwarting job creation.
“We’ve thrown up a barrier every step of the way through tax laws, onerous tax provisions, through regulations that many times are unnecessary, through bureaucrats making law instead of legislatures making law,” Gibbons said. “We need to clear a path for the entrepreneur. We need to clear the path for somebody to create a business.”
Staff writer Laura A. Bischoff contributed to this report
OTHER STORIES BY LYNN HULSEY