Feb 20, 2024 - Politics

What to know about Ohio's U.S. Senate primary

A illustration of three Republican candidates running for Senate in Ohio: Bernie Moreno, Frank LaRose, Matt Dolan

L-R: Bernie Moreno, Frank LaRose, Matt Dolan. Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The 2024 primary election in Ohio is now less than a month away, with Tuesday marking the deadline to register to vote and early voting starting Wednesday.

Why it matters: Beyond the presidential race and local contests, voters will decide which Republican will challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown in the general election for U.S. Senate.

Catch up quick: Brown, a senator since 2007, chairs the Senate Banking Committee and has a long history of defending U.S. workers against the negative impacts of international trade agreements.

  • Three Republicans — state Sen. Matt Dolan, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Bernie Moreno — are hoping to defeat Brown in the fall.

Between the lines: Moreno and Dolan unsuccessfully ran for the Senate seat in 2022, losing to Republican J.D. Vance, who was carried to victory by an endorsement from former President Trump.

  • Both Moreno and LaRose have courted Trump's favor, but Trump threw his support to Moreno this year.

Meet the candidates:

Dolan has been a state senator since 2017, representing Cleveland's southern and western suburbs.

  • He is the son of Cleveland Guardians owner Larry Dolan.
  • He is regarded as the most moderate of the three candidates and touts his "common-sense conservatism," which he argues has led to effective bipartisan legislating and prosperity for Ohioans.
  • He has been a champion of decreased taxes for businesses and Ohio's top earners.

LaRose is the Ohio secretary of state.

  • He led the failed effort to make it harder to amend the Ohio Constitution last year and campaigned against the successful abortion rights amendment, defeats he holds up as evidence of his willingness to stand on principle, even when winning isn't guaranteed.
  • LaRose is a military veteran and former member of the Ohio Senate who for years billed himself as a pragmatic centrist.
  • His rightward shift has included a focus on "parents rights" and aggressive border security. Even without Trump's endorsement, he has said he will stand with the former president's policies.

Moreno is a former luxury car dealer and Northeast Ohio entrepreneur.

  • Moreno is leaning into his political outsider status and the endorsement from Trump. (See for yourself at BernieMoreno.com.)
  • In 2018, he led an effort to refashion Cleveland as a blockchain hub.
  • He is an immigrant from Colombia and frequently contrasts his legal immigration journey with what he calls an "invasion" of undocumented immigrants. He has made the southern border a central campaign issue.

The other side: Brown waits in the wings with ample resources. He raised $6.6 million in the most recent reporting period, more than triple what his challengers raised combined.

  • Brown's campaign said it had $14.6 million cash on hand at the end of last year.

Yes, but: Among the 2024 U.S. Senate races, Ohio is one of the GOP's top targets as Republicans see an opportunity to pick up a seat, and deep-pocketed political action committees are preparing enormous advertising buys.

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