President Trump’s hand-picked U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Jim Renacci will take on U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown this fall after defeating Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons and several other challengers in Tuesday’s GOP primary.
Renacci, a former car dealer who has served in the U.S. House since 2011, was easily the best known of the Republican candidates. Brown is unopposed on the Democratic side and, for now at least, is a favorite to win in November. The oft-quoted Crystal Ball rating system for the University of Virginia Center for Politics lists Ohio’s Senate race as “leans Democratic.”
“I’m coming for you, Sherrod Brown,” Renacci tweeted after his win.
An early shake-up brought Renacci out of the governor’s race and into the Senate primary fray when failed 2012 candidate and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel announced he would withdraw from the 2018 Senate race due to his wife’s health.
“Would I have liked to have a two-year head start? Sure,” Renacci said in an interview with this newspaper. “But the momentum is building quickly.”
Renacci struggled in Franklin County, where he lost to Gibbons, but beat Gibbons in Cuyahoga and Hamilton counties.
Renacci had Trump’s backing in the race, and Renacci says Trump personally asked him to run after Mandel withdrew.
Previously, some of Trump’s endorsements have fallen flat. In Alabama, he endorsed Luther Strange in the GOP primary and Roy Moore in the special election. Both lost.
“I need Jim very badly to help our agenda and to keep MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump tweeted last week. “He will be a fantastic Senator for the Great State of Ohio, and has my full endorsement!”
Along with Renacci, Tuesday’s ballot consisted of Mike Gibbons of Cleveland, Melissa Ackison of Marysville, Don Elijah Eckhart of Galloway and Dan Kiley of Cincinnati.
Gibbons, a former investment banker, ran hard — making multiple appearances, sending out a flurry of press releases and purchasing both television and radio ads.
“Over the last 25 years I’ve been throwing things at my television set,” Gibbons said, explaining his candidacy. “I decided — my last son graduated from college last May — I want to go to Washington and tell the truth.”
On Tuesday, Gibbons told his supporters the race “didn’t turn out our way.”
"Tonight, Ohio has spoken,” Gibbons said. “And it didn’t turn out our way. But we came from nowhere. I started as an unknown. Just some business guy from Cleveland. And I’m proud of the campaign we ran – a grassroots campaign. I’m proud of the team we put together.”
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