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CLEVELAND – The soon-to-open seat in the Ohio Senate has prompted Donald Trump to be embraced among the top Republicans interested in the job, in a state the former president has twice won.

Jane Timken, who recently resigned the state party presidency to prepare for a campaign, announced her candidacy on Thursday proposing herself as a “conservative disruptor” who has helped to sweep the moderate allies of the former anti-Trump governor away. from Ohio, John Kasich.

“I come to the United States Senate to defend you, just like when I stood next to President Trump and supported his America First program,” Timken said in his launch video.

Following GOP Senator Rob Portman’s announcement that he would not seek re-election, Timken joins a Republican field that already includes Josh Mandel, the former state treasurer who entered the race last week with a wish he too would “fight for president Trump’s America First program.” “

In an interview with NBC News affiliate in Cleveland, WKYC, Mandel also echoed Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from the former president – a baseless claim adopted by pro rioters. Trump who stormed the Capitol last month where Mandel is seeking work. .

At least six more Republicans are planning to run for office, to be won in 2022. The list includes sitting members of Congress and several businessmen who may self-fund their campaigns or have access to wealthy donors, including JD Vance, the venture capitalist known for his successful memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy”.

Trump has given no indication he will influence the race, but has suggested he will work as a private citizen to influence the outcome of some primaries.

Jane Timken, then President of the Ohio Republican Party, speaks at the Hamilton County Board of Elections during the early poll in Norwood on October 6, 2020.Aaron Doster / AP File

“Right now, you’re watching Timken and Mandel competing for the Trump path,” said Michael Hartley, a Republican strategist in Ohio who worked on Kasich’s campaigns. “You’re probably going to have one or two self-funders, who could also compete for Trump supporters. This then offers a potential opportunity for a traditional, unquoted conservative in the ranks of Congress to make a run. One thing I do know is that it’s going to be incredibly expensive.

According to Republicans who spoke to NBC News this week, one such possibility is Rep. Steve Stivers. Stivers, a major general in the Ohio National Guard, represents the Columbus suburb and has a national donor database, thanks to a previous stint as head of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“As a general, Steve Stivers would tell you that one of the biggest mistakes a general could make is fighting the last battle,” said Joe King, a Republican consultant from Ohio who is close to Stivers. “So the key here is, how do we build on what we’ve done and move it forward? This is the kind of thought that goes into his process. People should be commended for their loyalty, but there is something to be said for someone who knows how to command an army.

For now, however, the early days – Mandel and Timken are either party’s first two declared candidates – are filled with pledges of allegiance to Trump. The dynamics are instructive about a state that has strayed sharply from the traditional Kasich conservatism, which now appears moderate compared to Trumpism.

Timken, 54, is part of an Ohio family deeply rooted in the state’s Republican industry and politics. Her husband, Tim, until 2019 was President and CEO of TimkenSteel, which grew out of a long-standing manufacturing company that also bears the last name. The couple organized a fundraiser for Trump in August 2016, at a time when many key Republicans in Ohio were doing little to help the then-Republican presidential candidate in deference to Kasich, who had abandoned his own candidacy for the White House in May.

In her launch on Thursday, Timken highlighted how she was Trump’s choice four years ago to oust Kasich’s ally who chaired the Ohio Republican Party. She was called to the White House and the Republican National Committee via Bob Paduchik, who pulled off Trump’s 2016 victory in Ohio and is now one of the top contenders to succeed him as state party president . Her new campaign website includes a photo of her next to a beaming Trump thumbs up, and another with her arm wrapped around Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara, who has been mentioned as a potential Senate candidate in North Carolina.

Mandel, 43, is a Marine Corps veteran who served two terms as state treasurer and lost a 2012 bid to oust Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. He was ready for a rematch with Brown in 2018 but gave up, citing his then-wife’s health. Since then, Mandel has sat on more than $ 4 million in unused campaign funds – an amount which, with his name’s recognition statewide, made him a frontrunner, but also ranked other Republicans from Ohio who would have liked to share it with other campaigns in the intervening years.

Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel speaks during the Ohio Republican Party election night in Columbus on November 4, 2014.Tony Dejak / AP File

Despite their declared closeness to the former president, Trump was not the first choice of either candidate in 2016. In his announcement, Mandel’s team stressed that he was primarily responsible for state backing Trump in 2016 and noted that “Josh gave himself and his campaign team. to the Trump campaign.

But Mandel backed Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio in the primaries that year, a move that also amounted to snubbing the Kasich establishment as the then governor ran for president. Timken, meanwhile, admitted to supporting Kasich at the start of the 2016 campaign.

Hours after Timken’s announcement on Thursday, Mandel tweeted an old photo of her kissing Kasich, indicating how he will act aggressively to label her insufficiently loyal to the Trump cause.

After a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol on Jan.6 and before Portman announced his retirement, a reporter for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland observed that Timken had put some distance between her and Trump. And Mandel and his advisers particularly took note of the way Timken handled his own congressman, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who was one of only 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump. Timken told the Plain Dealer earlier this month that she didn’t know “if I would have voted like him”, while praising Gonzalez as a “very effective lawmaker.”

It was only later, the day that Timken resigned the state party post in anticipation of announcing his candidacy for the Senate, she said. Tweeter that she didn’t agree with Gonzalez’s decision.

“Josh Mandel is the only resolutely pro-Trump candidate in this race,” Mandel campaign manager Scott Guthrie said Thursday morning in an emailed statement. “While other candidates said they ‘didn’t know’ how they would vote to impeach President Trump, Josh Mandel strongly opposed the fictitious and unconstitutional impeachment.”

When Trump first won Ohio by 8 points in 2016, Portman reached a second term by over 20. Corry Bliss, who managed that campaign for Portman, signed on as Timken’s general consultant.

“There is only one candidate in this race that has already been approved by President Trump, and that is Jane Timken,” Bliss said Thursday, referring to the state party chairman election. in 2017.

“Obviously, she would be honored to have President Trump’s endorsement in this race,” he added, although he declined to say whether the two had spoken of the possibility.

Aside from Stivers and Vance, other Republicans suspected of weighing a Senate bid on the Republican side include Representatives. Bill Johnson and Mike Turner, Cleveland-area businessman Bernie Moreno and Michael Gibbons, an investment banker unknown to voters outside of political donor circles. three years ago and was relatively strong in the 2018 Senate primaries. Gibbons stepped up his interest in the 2022 race this week by calling on the state party, which remains stacked with Timken’s allies, to remain neutral in the primary.

On the Democratic side, Representative Tim Ryan and Dr Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health, who emerged as a major presence on local television at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, are part of those who are considering a race. .

Asked this week about Republican hopefuls’ early efforts to demonstrate unwavering loyalty to Trump, Bryan Williams, the state party’s acting president, cast doubts on Mandel’s sincerity.

“While Mandel’s rhetoric recently took on a Trumpian tone, he was a supporter of Marco Rubio, and during the Trump administration he was not a supporter of Trump,” said Williams, who added that he does not seek the presidency permanently and does not plan. to make personal approval in the primary. “But that’s exactly what I think Josh is trying to woo right now.”

Nick Everhart, an Ohio-based Republican media consultant, isn’t sure the Trump factor is helping or deeply injuring a candidate unless the former president himself is directly involved in the race.

“Being pro-Trump has almost become like being pro-gun, pro-life,” he said. “It’s just another primary GOP litmus test that’s needed to survive. Unless Trump walks in and emphatically approves someone, the chances of the pro-Trump angle being a differentiator for all of these people will be very slim. It won’t be the thing that creates the separation, unless someone has gone out of their way to belittle him in the past. Then you have something an opponent can arm.

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