WASHINGTON, D.C. — Suburban Cleveland State Sen. Matt Dolan visited 32 of Ohio’s counties this summer to hear from Republican voters as he explored a run for U.S. Senate.

What You Need To Know

  • State Sen. Matt Dolan entered Ohio’s 2022 U.S. Senate race on Monday

  • Dolan is the lone Republican candidate running a campaign not focused on former President Trump

  • Dolan is a veteran state legislator whose family owns the Cleveland Indians

  • He told Spectrum News he feels voters will be drawn to an issue-based campaign,

In an interview Monday, he said he came away from it convinced they may not want a die-hard supporter of former President Donald Trump to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman.

“I think what I was hearing is that they appreciated that I had the passion of the former president, but maybe my tone is a little different,” Dolan told Spectrum News. “But tone does not set the agenda for political policy, results do.”

Dolan, a veteran state legislator and scion of the family that owns the Cleveland Indians, became the sixth major Republican to enter Ohio’s 2022 U.S. Senate race on Monday.

The five others are former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, former Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken, Cleveland businessmen Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno, and author and venture capitalist JD Vance.

“I am for something,” he told Spectrum News, adding that he’s the only Republican candidate who currently holds elected office. “Everyone else in the race just wants to be against things. Ohio can't grow if you don't have anybody in Washington fighting for it.”

Dolan said he hopes to stand out as the more moderate candidate in a field of Republicans who have been clamoring for Trump’s endorsement.

He’s pledging to campaign hard against President Joe Biden’s policies and focus on issues like border security and fiscal conservatism. But unlike his opponents, Dolan plans to stay away from the conspiracies Trump has promoted and the smash-mouth politics Trump practices.

Dolan doesn’t think the 2020 election was stolen; he calls the Jan. 6 insurrection a dark day for Americans; and he won’t say whether he thinks Trump should run again.

“People want us to work for them. They don't want just bomb throwers. They want something to get done,” he said.

Dolan also spent the summer praising Sen. Rob Portman, who’s retiring next year in part because Washington has become so divisive.

Dolan is the only Republican Senate candidate who supports the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal Portman helped reach this summer. He said it’s an example of how Ohio’s next senator should approach the job.

When asked if it’s fair to say he’s campaigning to be the next Portman in the Senate, Dolan told Spectrum News, “If you mean by that an engaged Republican who will fight for Ohio, then yes.”

Justin Buchler, a political science professor at Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University, said it’s too early to tell if Dolan’s strategy of leaning into his policy background and leading away from Trump will work in a state Trump won twice by eight points.

“His primary strength is that he does have elected experience and, statistically, that's a pretty good predictor of success in a congressional campaign, House or Senate,” Buchler said. “But at the same time, it's possible that the party has simply moved away from where Dolan is.”

As of Monday evening, Trump has yet to endorse in the race.

Two Democrats are also running: northeast Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan and progressive lawyer Morgan Harper.