Ohio Rep. James B. Renacci is ending his gubernatorial campaign to launch a bid for the Republican nomination for Senate, he announced Thursday.
Renacci made his decision after a Wednesday morning meeting at the White House.
“While my strong distaste for Washington and the political establishment is as fervent as ever, so too is my commitment to advancing the president’s agenda for a stronger and more prosperous America. And for that reason I’ve agreed to answer the call to service and enter the race for United States Senate,” Renacci wrote in a letter to his supporters.
Renacci had announced his gubernatorial campaign last March, playing up his business credentials and touting himself as an outsider in the mold of President Donald Trump. His switch to the Senate race comes after state Treasurer Josh Mandel abruptly ended his Senate campaign last Friday, citing a family health issue.
Conservative leaders immediately started encouraging Renacci to get into the Senate race, but the four-term congressman said he’d consider it only if Trump asked him.
The congressman is close to Trump and state GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken, which Republicans expect will give him an advantage in the May 8 primary. As one of the wealthiest members of Congress, he could also bring plenty of his own money to the race.
Investment banker Mike Gibbons is already running and has been securing endorsements from some local party leaders. In the wake of Mandel’s exit, he committed to investing $5 million of his own money into his race.
Ahead of Renacci’s announcement, Gibbons’ campaign said he “remains committed to the race.”
“Voters want a true outsider in the race and are tired of career politicians who are always interested in their next job. The fact remains that Mike Gibbons is far better positioned to defeat Sherrod Brown than any member of Congress,” Gibbons general consultant Mike Biundo said in a Wednesday night statement.
“Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance is also interested in a bid, although he ruled out running in 2017 when Mandel was still in the race. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell likes Vance and spoke to him in recent days, BuzzFeed reported.
But some Republicans in the state expressed skepticism of Vance’s ability to introduce himself to voters in the state after being away for a while. “It’s a great story, but he moved away and is going to parachute back in?” one Ohio Republican asked.
Vance has also been critical of Trump, which could be problematic in a GOP primary.
Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown announced Wednesday his campaign raised $2.6 million in the fourth quarter ending Dec. 31, leaving him with $9.8 million in the bank.
Senate Majority PAC, the Democratic super PAC, released a statement Thursday previewing some of the attacks Renacci is likely to encounter.
“Rep. Renacci is a former lobbyist and corrupt politician beholden to wealthy Washington special interests who is desperately running from one losing campaign to another,” Senate Majority PAC president J.B. Poersch said.