By Paul Steinhauser | Fox News
Expect another crowded and competitive Republican Senate primary in Ohio in 2024
EXCLUSIVE: Matt Dolan, the Senate candidate who was the biggest surprise as he surged during the closing weeks of Ohio’s crowded and combustible Republican nomination race last year, on Tuesday will formally announce a second straight run for the Senate when Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown is up for re-election in 2024.
“There are so many challenges that our country faces, and I have the skill set necessary to solve the problems,” Dolan, a former state representative and state senator who also served as a county chief assistant prosecutor and Ohio assistant attorney general, told Fox News Digital in a national exclusive interview on the eve of his official campaign launch.
And Dolan highlighted that “I have a history and a record as prosecutor, as an assistant attorney general, as a lawyer, and as a public servant, of solving problems.”
Brown, who’s the only Democrat to win statewide in Ohio in the past decade, announced shortly after the 2022 midterm elections that he intends to seek re-election to a fourth six-year term in the Senate. He’ll be heavily targeted by Republicans in a state that was once a premiere battleground but has shifted red over the past six years.
Taking aim at the Democratic incumbent, Dolan charged in a statement shared with Fox News Digital that “a lot can change in 30 years, but in that time Sherrod Brown’s commitment to his party has remained the same. And if blind loyalty to his party’s agenda 98% of the time wasn’t extreme enough, his willingness to pack the Supreme Court with left-wing judges and gut the filibuster prove just how radical his politics have become. Together with Joe Biden, Sherrod Brown has kicked America’s problems down the road for a generation. Their time is up.”
And during the interview, Dolan argued that “what scares me the most is we have a current U.S. senator in Sherrod Brown who won’t even acknowledge the problems. When I heard that Sherrod Brown was saying that in Ohio he doesn’t hear about the border and that this border crisis is just a far-right issue, that motivated me to say ‘I need to get into the race,’ because we can’t solve the problems if we have Sherrod Brown not even willing to address the problems.”
“I have sat with the sheriffs, with the law enforcement officers, with the families that have been directly affected by the fentanyl crisis, which is coming directly from our southern border at record rates,” Dolan touted. “I have a record in the Ohio legislature. I have a record in the private sector. I have a record as a prosecutor. All doing the same things – solving problems to make Ohioans lives better.”
While much of the crowded and combustible field of Republican Senate candidates in Ohio last cycle showcased their loyalty to former President Donald Trump (who won Ohio by eight points in his 2016 presidential election victory and 2020 re-election defeat) and took aim at each other, Dolan kept his distance from both the crossfire and from Trump while showcasing his conservative credentials and agenda.
Dolan – whose family owns Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians – also shelled out millions of dollars of his own money to run ads for his Senate bid. He surged near the end of the primary race, winning 23.3% of the vote, just behind former state Treasurer Josh Mandel at 23.9%. Former hedge fund executive and best-selling author JD Vance won the early May primary with 32.2% of the vote, thanks in part to a last-minute endorsement from Trump.
Vance topped longtime Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in November’s general election to win the Senate seat. Ryan, who ran for the Senate as a populist outsider in the mold of Brown, and who was credited with running a smart campaign, still ended up losing to Vance by six points. While Vance won his contest, many other Trump-backed GOP nominees for senator or governor in highly competitive races didn’t fare as well, and the former president has been criticized for the Republican Party’s lackluster performance in the midterms.
“The ’22 midterms confirmed what Republican voters want. If you put up candidates that are obsessing on the past and not looking to the future, Republicans are going to lose. I am unique in this race that I have been constantly focused on the future, but more importantly I have a record to run on that has produced success,” Dolan emphasized.
And he argued that “Sherrod Brown has never faced a candidate like me. I’m going to bring the fight to him on his record, because he can’t match what I’ve done for Ohioans and what he hasn’t accomplished in 30 years.”
Asked if he plans once again to invest millions of his own money into his campaign, Dolan pledged, “I will have the necessary resources… I will be funded to win this race.” And it appears likely that he’ll enjoy the support of two outside PACs, Ohio Matters PAC and Buckeye Leadership Fund.
Dolan also said the “very practical thing” he learned from last year’s Senate campaign was “you need more time in a statewide race for a state the size of Ohio. I got in late. This time I’m getting in early.”
In the days following Tuesday’s formal announcement, Dolan plans to speak with media in Ohio’s largest cities.
While Dolan’s the first major Republican candidate to jump into the race, he likely won’t be the last.
Among others mulling bids or being mentioned as possible Republican candidates are Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, venture capitalist Mark Kvamme, businessman and 2022 GOP Senate candidate Bernie Moreno, and Rep. Warren Davidson.
Democrats flipped a GOP Senate seat in Pennsylvania in November’s midterm elections, and they currently hold a 51-49 majority in the chamber – which includes three independent senators who caucus with the Democratic conference.
But Republicans are looking at a very favorable Senate map in 2024, with Democrats defending 23 of the 33 seats up for grabs. Three of those seats are in red states Trump carried over Biden in 2020: Ohio, West Virginia (where Trump won by nearly 39 points) and Montana (which Trump won by 16 points). Five other Democratic seats are in key swing states narrowly carried by Biden in the 2020 presidential election: Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.