Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose launched a long-awaited Senate bid on Monday, becoming the third prominent Republican to run in an already contentious primary that will determine who will face Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown in 2024.
“Like many Ohioans, I am concerned about the direction of our country,” Larose said in a statement announcing his candidacy. “As a father of three girls, I am not about to sit quietly while the left tries to cancel the American Dream. We have a duty to uphold the values that made America the hope of the world.»
Ohio’s Senate race looks set to be one of the most competitive in the country next year. Brown’s seat, in a state former President Donald Trump won twice by comfortable margins, is among the GOP’s prized win-back opportunities, along with races in Arizona, Montana and West Virginia.
In its accompanying release videoLaRose emphasizes his military service, saying, «I’m a Green Beret, a conservative, a man of faith, and I’m not afraid to fight.»
LaRose had most recently mocked the announcement in a July 4 statement. cheep showing unsigned candidacy documents destined for the Federal Election Commission. His formal announcement comes during a summer in which he has championed a ballot initiative that would require a 60% vote, rather than a simple majority, to amend the Ohio Constitution. If that measure passes in a special election in August, it would set the highest threshold for an amendment to protect abortion rights expected to be on the November ballot.
LaRose, 44, will try to occupy two different lanes in the Republican field. Bernie Moreno, a businessman who is running with Trump’s endorsement but for now without his official endorsement, is running as a loyalist to the former president. State Sen. Matt Dolan, a more politically oriented conservative whose family owns Cleveland’s Major League Baseball franchise, the Guardians, is pitching himself as an antidote to Trump’s fiery politics.
LaRose enters the primary as the most familiar Republican to voters. He has won two statewide races, including being re-elected last year as secretary of state. a recent survey by East Carolina University showed him essentially tied as a teenager with Dolan, who finished third in the 2022 Ohio Senate primary, with 58% of Republican voters undecided at this early stage. Moreno, a well-known former car dealer in the Cleveland area who dropped out of the 2022 race months before the primary, was chosen by 7% of the poll’s Republican respondents.
But LaRose also enters the 2024 race as the least funded of the three. Unlike Moreno and Dolan, he lacks great personal wealth to draw on and has spent the past few months urging donors to support a nonprofit group his political allies started to keep him competitive. Dolan, by contrast, has already started running TV ads. And Moreno is off to a strong fundraising start.
“This is something that I’ve been looking at and carefully studying and even starting to take steps to see if it’s possible,” LaRose told NBC News in an interview in May. «Because if you’re going to put effort into something, a big task like this, then you’ve got to make sure you’ve got your ducks lined up and you’re ready to put in a good effort.»
At the time of that interview, LaRose had been telling donors that he planned to enter the race «soon.» Republican agents closely watching the race had regularly monitored LaRose’s movements — speeches at chicken dinners in Ohio, fundraisers in Washington — for clues as to when he might be.
One appearance that drew particular scrutiny was a spring meeting with Ohio Republicans where LaRose played down Trump’s influence in the Republican primary. The event was private, but the audio of the comments was leaked to political and NBC News, and it rang disingenuous to many in the party who remembered how Trump endorsed LaRose in his 2022 re-election bid.
LaRose, unlike other Republican candidates for secretary of state last year, has said he does not believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. But LaRose has also reached out to Republican activists who have made false or exaggerated claims about voter fraud. His office thrown out a public integrity unit last year, and appeared on a panel with voter deniers during this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C.
More recently, LaRose put distance between himself and Trump after the former president was indicted for his alleged handling of classified documents. A spokesman, Rob Nichols, offered a statement in which he gently rebuked Trump, though not by name, and included criticism of how the Justice Department is handling the case.
Moreno, on the other hand, attended Trump’s defiant speech at his New Jersey golf club the night after his appearance.