Ohio Treasurer Mandel seeking a rematch with US Sen. Brown

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U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, sharply criticized President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Andrew Puzder for secretary of labor calling him “an enemy of working people to be in charge of the very department tasked to protect them.”

Ryan added: “To say I am disappointed and angered by this decision would be an understatement. If Mr. Puzder is confirmed, he will become the least experienced secretary of labor since the 1980s. This is a man who has spent his career speaking out against worker protections, he opposes expanding eligibility for overtime pay, and he opposes any increase in the minimum wage. Mr. Puzder receives an annual base salary of over $1 million a year, while many of his employees are, in fact, making the minimum wage and barely getting by. How is this the person we are tapping to have the backs of the American people?”

Sherrod Brown, the liberal U.S. senator facing re-election in 2018, has a target on his back.

National Republicans who unsuccessfully tried to oust Brown when the Cleveland Democrat ran for a second six-year term in 2012 are refocusing their attention on him.

And that’s got to be troublesome for Brown as the number of elected Ohio Democrats is so few they should qualify for the endangered species list.

Consider the crushing defeats Democrats experienced in the statewide 2014 election.

It only got worse last month with Republican Donald Trump crushing Democrat Hillary Clinton by 8 percentage points; U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, burying Democrat Ted Strickland by 21 percentage points; and Democrats picking up no congressional seats – and in a number of cases just putting a name on the ballot and watching that person get destroyed. Ohio Republicans have a 12-4 advantage in the U.S. House.

Also, Democrats, who are in such a minority in the state Legislature, actually lost seats in last month’s election.

When the General Assembly starts its new term next month, there will be only nine Democrats in the 33-member Senate and 33 Democrats in the 99-member House.

To find fewer Democrats in the Senate, you have to go back to 1951 when there were seven of them. And 33 Democrats would be the smallest amount in the House since 1947.

Democrats were defenseless this week to do anything during the lame-duck session to stop Republicans from pushing a conservative agenda including heavily restricting abortions – a bill that even anti-abortion advocates are concerned is unconstitutional – and allowing concealed firearms in more places.

Just when you thought Democrats couldn’t get more irrelevant in state government, they top themselves.

While Democrats are excited about their chances of winning statewide seats in 2018, history has proven them wrong.

Except for the 2006 election – in which Democrats successfully capitalized on a terrible national economy under Republican President George W. Bush and the statewide Coingate scandal under GOP rule – the party hasn’t held a single executive branch seat since 1990.

As for Brown, he was elected to the Senate in that 2006 Democratic wave election and re-elected in 2012, the same year Ohioans voted to give Democratic President Barack Obama another four years in the White House.

That shouldn’t discount Brown’s popularity in the state, particularly with blue-collar, working-class voters who have been leaving the Democratic Party over the years.

Brown faces a significantly greater challenge getting re-elected in 2018, and it was pretty tough for him to win in 2012.

Brown beat state Treasurer Josh Mandel, the Republican nominee, by 6 percentage points four years ago in an expensive and bitter campaign.

About $60 million was spent by Mandel and Republican special-interest groups compared to about $35 million by Brown and outside groups that backed him. Media political fact-checkers determined several statements made by Mandel during the campaign were false. But Brown still won.

The flat-out hatred by Ohio Democratic officials and former Brown campaign staffers of Mandel still runs very deep.

Mandel, who’s been planning a rematch for years, said 11 months ago that he would have a decision on his Senate candidacy after the November general election.

He didn’t wait long, announcing Wednesday what political observers have known for a while: Mandel was running in 2018.

Expect even more outside money to pour into the 2018 race with it likely being among the most expensive – possibly the most expensive – Senate campaign in the country.

There’s no guarantee that Mandel will be the GOP nominee as U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, from the Columbus area and more liked than the state treasurer by the Republican Party establishment, giving strong consideration to seeking the position.

Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe said Mandel “has to be considered the clear favorite.” Munroe added: “Whoever emerges as the eventual GOP nominee, Sherrod Brown will be in for a tough fight.”

The race could be an early referendum on Trump’s presidency. Typically the political party of the president loses congressional seats in mid-year elections, but Ohio has obviously become much more Republican over the past 25 years.

Also, Trump is not a typical politician so it’s hard to say what impact the incoming president will have on this Senate race, particularly because he hasn’t even been inaugurated yet.

Mandel is latching onto Trump with talk of needing to “drain the swamp” in Washington, and that “most people think Washington is broken, but it’s really just a rigged system. Politicians and their cronies get rich while the middle class struggles.”

Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras said Mandel “can embrace Donald Trump all he wants, but it’s a phony embrace.”

In an email to supporters seeking money for his re-election, Brown’s campaign wrote: “If you’re feeling some deja vu right now, you’re not alone. Josh Mandel is running for Senate. Again. This is the same Josh Mandel who ignored his duties as treasurer to run for some other job. This is the same Josh Mandel who skipped important meetings to go to D.C. fundraisers. This is the same Josh Mandel the Cincinnati Enquirer called ‘the worst kind of politician.’”

The email adds: “But make no mistake, if there’s one thing Josh Mandel was good at, it was spending money against us – and having his special interest allies do the same.”

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