Matt Dolan learned from 2022 Senate race
State Sen. Matt Dolan learned a lot during his unsuccessful bid last year for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
One is that support from former President Donald Trump means much in the party’s primary. Dolan of Chagrin Falls didn’t seek Trump’s endorsement and wouldn’t have received it anyway. Trump’s support of J.D. Vance played a huge role in the political newcomer winning the Republican primary last May.
But Dolan’s third-place finish in a crowded primary helped him gain statewide name recognition and showed there is a lane in the Republican Party for someone who doesn’t strongly tie himself to Trump.
Dolan has made critical statements about Trump and that alone gets him labeled as a centrist.
The other lesson is don’t wait too long to make a decision on entering the race. Dolan waited until Sept. 20, 2021, to enter the 2022 primary making him the last Republican to announce even though he traveled around the state for months giving indications he’d be a candidate. That late start didn’t help as he struggled to raise money.
As the returning chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Dolan is going to have to devote much time in coming months to the state budget.
So he announced Tuesday he will challenge three-term U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, in the 2024 election. He became the first Republican to announce his candidacy.
He certainly won’t be the last.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose, just re-elected to his second term, is a virtual lock to run for Senate. LaRose has been critical of Brown lately and was supported last year by Trump.
Other possible candidates are Bernie Moreno, Cleveland-area businessman who briefly ran for the nomination last year and got out when Trump requested, and U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson of Troy. There’s also a chance Attorney General Dave Yost, who successfully ran statewide four times, could get in the race.
Dolan took aim at Brown in his Senate announcement, saying: “A lot can change in 30 years, but in that time Sherrod Brown’s commitment to his party has remained the same. And if blind loyalty to his party’s agenda 98 percent of the time wasn’t extreme enough, his willingness to pack the Supreme Court with left-wing judges and gut the filibuster prove just how radical his politics have become. Together with (President) Joe Biden, Sherrod Brown kicked America’s problems down the road for a generation. Their time is up.”
On Wednesday, I asked Brown about Dolan.
He wasn’t terribly interested in talking about him.
“There will be Republicans lining up because they win most elections in this state, but my focus will always be on my job,” he said.
During Dolan’s candidacy in the last Senate primary, he put $10,597,000 of his personal wealth into his campaign. That campaign lasted less than eight months.
This next primary campaign will be for almost 14 months, and it’s likely Dolan will spend considerably more of his own money. Also, expect his family, which provided funding for Dolan’s last campaign and owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, to be more active this time around.
When I asked Brown, a die-hard Guardians fan, if he was concerned about the amount of money wealthy candidates spend on campaigns, he said: “There are too many rich people, trust-fund babies, that spend tons of inherited dollars to buy seats in the House, the Senate and the governor’s office, whatever. It’s too bad. But my focus is on my doing my job, and my doing my job is what elects me in the end.”
Brown is the only Ohio Democrat to win a statewide election with his party affiliation listed on the ballot since 2008, not including President Barack Obama in 2012.
The state has become significantly more Republican in the past decade. While Brown’s margin of victory has decreased since he was first elected to the Senate in 2006, he is a tireless campaigner and a skilled politician.
But undoubtedly next year’s Senate race will be Brown’s most challenging.
Skolnick covers politics for The Vindicator and the Tribune Chronicle.