Ohio Republicans prepare for battle to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown

Former Senate candidate Bernie Moreno in Delaware, Ohio, April 23, 2022.

CLEVELAND — The race to take on Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, could soon be crowded, with at least three prominent Republicans weighing whether to enter a primary field that Matt Dolan, a wealthy state lawmaker, has had to himself for more than two months.

Bernie Moreno, a Cleveland-area businessman who briefly ran for Senate in 2022, is inching closer toward another campaign. He’s been booked for several GOP functions in the coming weeks, including one promoting him as a “Potential Candidate for US Senate.”

“Don’t want to replace a career politician with a career politician?” Emily Moreno Miller, Moreno’s daughter, a GOP operative with ties to former President Donald Trump’s political team, tweeted this week while sharing information about the event. “Be in Batavia, OH on March 27.”

The Ohio contest is expected to be one of the nastiest and most expensive in the country next year as both parties battle for control of the Senate. Brown, the only Democrat in Ohio who has had consistent success in statewide elections, is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents, along with Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, W.Va., and Jon Tester, Mont.

Miller’s tweet was aimed at Brown — a three-term senator who’s held elected office for most of the last 50 years — and at Dolan, as well as another potential Republican candidate, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Dolan, a state senator whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball franchise, has served in the Legislature for years. LaRose, an Army veteran, was a state senator before winning the first of his two terms as secretary of state.

Former Senate candidate Bernie Moreno in Delaware, Ohio, in 2022.Joe Maiorana / AP file

“Ohio workers know no one works harder for them than Sherrod Brown,” Brown’s campaign manager, Rachel Petri, told NBC News. “That record fighting for the dignity of work will stand in sharp contrast to whoever Republicans nominate.”

Moreno, a former car dealer, ended his last Senate bid months before the primary, after meeting with Trump and determining the field was too crowded for him to win. Before the 2016 election, Moreno had been a Trump skeptic, calling him a “maniac” in private correspondence with a Republican fundraiser that NBC News obtained two years ago. But Moreno’s family has gotten closer to Trump since then and has forged other alliances that could be useful in a primary. 

His daughter, who worked on the former president’s 2020 re-election…

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