An Ohio Curve Ball

Ohio Senate Candidate Josh Mandel

Ohio State treasurer and presumed Senate candidate Josh Mandel

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 9, 2018 — Most people believed the 2018 Ohio Senate general election would be a re-match of the 2012 contest, but now big changes are afoot. On Friday, presumed Republican nominee Josh Mandel, the Ohio State treasurer, announced that he will not file for the Senate race when the deadline expires on Feb. 7. Unfortunately, Mandel says that his wife’s undisclosed health situation, apparently just recently diagnosed, has forced him to the political sideline. He did not indicate whether or not he would seek re-election to his current position.

Mandel was quoted as saying, “[I] recently learned that my wife has a health issue that will require my time, attention and presence,” and that it “has become clear to us that it’s no longer possible for me to be away from home and on the campaign trail for the time needed to run a US Senate race,” as reported on the Daily Kos Elections website.

This means there will not be a repeat performance between Mandel and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). The two ran against each other six years ago, with the Democratic incumbent winning 51-45 percent. At the time, Mandel, a first-term state treasurer elected only two years before, raised an impressive $18.9 million for the race, losing by only six points while Sen. Brown had the advantage of President Obama topping the Democratic ticket and carrying the Buckeye State. In comparison, Sen. Brown expended just under $21.5 million to secure his first re-election.

Considering President Trump’s strong Ohio performance in the 2016 campaign, 52-44 percent over Hillary Clinton — an 11-point swing toward the Republican ticket from Obama’s winning 2012 performance — Republicans were becoming somewhat optimistic about Mandel’s chances of unseating Sen. Brown later this year.

If that is to happen, it will be with a different Republican nominee. Now, the GOP must scramble to find a strong new candidate just one month before candidate filing closes.

Wealthy investment banker Michael Gibbons was already in the Senate race, challenging Mandel for the Republican nomination. Gibbons confirms he will remain a candidate in a new, more wide-open statewide GOP contest. Two current gubernatorial candidates, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth), both confirm they are considering switching to the Senate race since Mandel’s departure clearly leaves a void. Undoubtedly others are considering their own political moves, and much speculation will come from the Ohio quarters in the next few days.


In October, nine-term US Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County) announced that he would resign his House seat in January to take over the Ohio Business Roundtable. Late last week, Tiberi made public that he will officially vacate the seat on Jan. 15. This allowed Gov. John Kasich (R) to set the replacement special election calendar, which he announced on Friday.

As expected, the special primary election will run concurrently with the regular statewide primary on May 8. The special primary winners will then advance to a special general on Aug. 7. The winner of the latter election will serve the balance of the current term.

Ohio’s 12th Congressional District is anchored in Franklin County, and contains all of Delaware, Licking, and Morrow counties. It then expands to include parts of Richland, Muskingum, and Marion counties. President Trump carried the seat, 53-42 percent, while Mitt Romney logged a similar 54-44 percent margin back in 2012. The eventual Republican nominee will be favored for both the impending special and then the regular election.

The current Republican announced field is comprised of state Sens. Kevin Bacon (R-Blendon Township) and Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville), Delaware County prosecutor Carol O’Brien, and businessmen Brandon Grisez, and Jon Halverstadt. Democrats are lining up to contest the seat, and they feature former Ashley Mayor Doug Wilson, ex-Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, businessman and 2016 congressional nominee Ed Albertson, and three minor contenders.

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