Ohio Senate race: Democrat Sherrod Brown draws first GOP challenger in key 2024 contest

Dec 14, 2022; Columbus, OH, USA;  Ohio Senator Jay Hottinger from Newark points a finger at Senator Matt Dolan during a tribute for his decades of public service in the Senate Chambers. Mandatory Credit: Brooke LaValley/Columbus Dispatch
Dec 14, 2022; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio Senator Jay Hottinger from Newark points a finger at Senator Matt Dolan during a tribute for his decades of public service in the Senate Chambers. Mandatory Credit: Brooke LaValley/Columbus Dispatch

Ohio's next U.S. Senate race is officially underway.

State Sen. Matt Dolan announced Tuesday that he's running for the chance to take on U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2024. The Chagrin Falls Republican placed third in the crowded GOP primary in 2022 to replace former Sen. Rob Portman.

To Dolan, 2022 sent a clear message: Republicans want someone who can solve problems.

“The midterm election showed us nationally that if the Republicans are going to put up folks that are focused on yesterday, running these campaigns of grievances, we’re going to lose," Dolan told the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau.

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Dolan was the only Republican in the 2022 Senate race who refused to center his campaign around former President Donald Trump. He cast himself as a pragmatist focused on policy over politics and rejected false claims that Trump won the 2020 election. After the primary, he launched a super PAC focused on how Republicans can move forward and execute their ideas.

Unlike last time, Dolan isn't waiting around. He’s jumping into the race early to give himself more time to reach voters, and he can leverage personal wealth to keep his campaign alive until the March 2024 primary. His announcement also came weeks before Gov. Mike DeWine unveils his next budget, which will occupy Dolan's time in the statehouse as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The state senator said that work underscores his record of advocating for conservative policies, such as lower taxes and less regulation.

"This is a different race," Dolan said. "I am going to face Sherrod Brown. Sherrod Brown has not faced a candidate like me, who has conservative results, who has worked on challenges that have impacted positively all Ohioans.”

Who else is running for U.S. senator in Ohio in 2024?

Dolan is the first Republican to throw his hat in the ring for 2024, but he's not expected to be the last.

Brown, serving his third term, could be vulnerable after Republicans swept statewide elections in 2022, further eroding Ohio's status as a bellwether state. He'll be one of three Democrats up for reelection in a state that Trump won in 2020. The National Republican Senatorial Committee fired its first shot against the longtime senator last week with an ad calling for change in the Buckeye State.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown speaks during an event to give remarks on the bipartisan infrastructure law which will fund major changes to the Brent Spence Bridge and surrounding infrastructure at a lot on the banks of the Ohio River in Covington, Ky., on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown speaks during an event to give remarks on the bipartisan infrastructure law which will fund major changes to the Brent Spence Bridge and surrounding infrastructure at a lot on the banks of the Ohio River in Covington, Ky., on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023.

Even Brown's campaign emails predict that his race will be one of the most expensive in the country.

Ohio Republicans will be chomping at the bit to join the fight. Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno could return to the campaign trail after getting in Trump's good graces during the 2022 primary. Secretary of State Frank LaRose is also widely expected to run for the seat.

"Sherrod Brown has been in office for 48 years, and in 2024 there is a one-shot opportunity to take back the U.S. Senate," LaRose spokesman Rob Nichols said. "Naturally, there is a lot of discussion right now over who is the most qualified candidate to replace him, and Secretary LaRose intends to be a part of that conversation."

A spokesman for former state treasurer Josh Mandel, who vied for a U.S. Senate seat three times, said he's not running and has no plans to return to politics. Mandel lost a race for the U.S. Senate against Brown in 2012.

While Republicans see a senator in trouble, Brown is one of few Ohio Democrats who have had recent success statewide. During a visit to Columbus last week, he seemed unfazed about the candidates lining up to challenge him.

"I know this is a state that leans Republican," Brown said. "I also know this is a state that I am absolutely in sync with on the dignity of work, on fighting for...the CHIPS Act or Lake Erie or the Brent Spence Bridge and all the infrastructure. I've always worked across party lines and know how to, and that's why I'll be reelected in the end."

Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ohio U.S. Senate race 2024: Matt Dolan announces bid vs. Sherrod Brown