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Trump-endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno wins Ohio’s GOP primary

Bernie Moreno speaks on winning the Republican nomination for Ohio's US Senate race at his election night watch party, with his wife Bridget alongside him.
Sarah Donaldson
Statehouse News Bureau
Bernie Moreno speaks on winning the Republican nomination for Ohio's US Senate race at his election night watch party, with his wife Bridget alongside him.

Bernie Moreno has won the Ohio Republican Party primary for the U.S. Senate, according to a race call by The Associated Press at 8:35 pm. Moreno beat two challengers in a race that pitted in a race was seen as a battle over who aligned most closely with former President Donald Trump.

It’s a first-time win for the 57-year-old Moreno, a Cleveland-area businessman who sold off his network of luxury car dealerships completely by 2022. He will go on to challenge Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race. The race could help determine who controls the Senate next year, given that Democrats now hold the chamber with a narrow margin.

But it’s his second campaign for U.S. Senate. Moreno filed paperwork to run in the Republican primary in 2022 but dropped out before the filing deadline.

MAGA endorsement boosted Moreno

Moreno, Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), and Secretary of State Frank LaRose all declared their support for Trump, who won Ohio handily in 2016 and 2020. But it was Moreno who got Trump’s endorsement in December. An endorsement from Trump vaulted U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance to the top of a seven-candidate field in May 2022.

Moreno, whose wealthy family immigrated from Colombia to the U.S. when he was a child, put $5.4 million of his own money into the race. But he was also boosted by a late addition to the many ads in this campaign from a political action committee aligned with U.S. Senate Democrats. The PAC Duty and Country spent $2.7 million on ads touting Trump's endorsed candidate Moreno as “too conservative for Ohio.”

Moreno and Dolan traded off the lead in recent polls. LaRose had been considered the front-runner by many when he entered the race but has fallen behind, as he’s run with far less money and without endorsements from high-profile figures.

The race has been a battle over who is the strongest Trump-aligned candidate, but it’s also been fueled by money. Dolan and Moreno both had around $2.4 million in their campaign accounts at the last FEC filing on March 7. But Dolan has loaned his campaign $2 million, and Moreno loaned his campaign $1.2 million. LaRose, who doesn’t have the personal wealth the other two do, has just under $600,000 on hand.

LaRose said he doesn't have any regrets about the race. And he said he will support Moreno this fall as part of an important mission.

"That mission is to defeat Sherrod Brown this November and put this country back on track by having a senator who has Ohio's values in Washington, D.C. We know that Sherrod Brown has been in public life for 48 years, four years longer than I've been alive. And it's time that we replace him. I look forward to that work," LaRose said.

Brown, who’s been in the Senate since defeating Republican US Sen. Mike DeWine in 2006, is seeking his fourth term. He's the only Democrat who’s been elected multiple times statewide as Ohio has trended more Republican. He won re-election in 2018 by almost seven points, as Republicans swept the other statewide offices. But Brown has acknowledged that this will be his toughest campaign yet.

Brown, who didn’t have a primary opponent, raised $6.6 million in the last few months. Brown’s cash-on-hand total is $14.6 million, nearly three times that of the other three candidates together.
Copyright 2024 The Statehouse News Bureau.