WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republicans hold statewide office in Ohio except one—the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Sherrod Brown. Brown’s distinction as the last Democrat standing will be put to the test this November, when he seeks a fourth term.

What You Need To Know

  • Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is the only Democrat to hold statewide office in Ohio

  • Brown faces one of the toughest reelection campaigns of his career in a state that has shifted more conservative in recent years

  • Republican strategist see an opportunity to flip Brown's seat and potentially the balance of power in the Senate

Brown has held elected office since 1975 and for the last 18 years he has served in the Senate, where he now wields considerable power as chairman of the Banking Committee.

As Ohio has grown more conservative in recent years, Republican strategists see an opportunity to end Brown’s political career. The Cook Political Report rates the race as a toss-up.

If Republicans can unseat him, control of the Senate will almost certainly flip to the GOP.

Ohio’s Republican shift has made Democratic voter turnout crucial for Democratic candidates like Brown.

If voter enthusiasm is any measure of voter turnout this November, polling places will be slow on Election Day.

“As far as the presidential election, I feel fairly hopeless,” said Michelle Sherer of Johnstown, Ohio, who said she was a moderate voter who leaned Democratic. “For other races, state and local races, I haven’t taken any time yet to understand what the different options are, but it all feels pretty hopeless right now.”

He will face another uphill battle as a down-ticket candidate of President Joe Biden, who has just a 34% approval rating in Ohio.

“What I’m seeing is a lot of enthusiasm for President Trump. Biden support is weak and Trump support is strong,” said Gary Conklin, chairman of the Union County Republican Party. “So I think Brown is beatable.

However, Brown consistently outperforms his own party in Ohio.

Brown won statewide by 8 points in 2018, the same margin Trump won Ohio by in 2020 and Sen. JD Vance won Ohio in 2022.

Brown has managed to build a reputation outside of the conventional Midwestern conception of a Democrat. He is known for defending blue-collar workers and opposing free trade agreements that outsourced jobs from Ohio, even criticizing deals negotiated by President Biden, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

“My job is to fight for American workers and American jobs. I don’t care who the president is, if they nominate somebody who’s been on the wrong side of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, who has worked for companies that outsourced jobs, that have really run over worker rights, then regardless of the president I’ll oppose them,” Brown said in a January interview with Spectrum News. “I’ve done it my whole career in both parties.”

Brown’s track record has yet to convince some Republicans.

“Sherrod Brown chose my artwork at a fair a number of years ago, the Ohio State Fair, and gave it the Senator’s Award, so kudos to him for that,” said David Wolff of Ohio, who identified as Republican. “However, his stances I don’t go along with.”

The real test, though, will be how many moderate and independent voters Brown can win over.

In the GOP primary race two candidates—businessman Bernie Moreno and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose—are running on a populist America First platform, while State Sen. Matt Dolan is touting traditional, small-government conservatism. The winner may determine which way moderates vote in the general election.

 “If there were a reasonable Republican candidate, I’m not so Democratic that I wouldn’t vote for a reasonable Republican candidate,” Sherer said.

Brown stands ready to deploy his ample resources, having raised more than $27 million in this cycle, more than double the fundraising of all his opponents combined.

More resources on are the way for Brown’s opponents, in a race shaping up to be one of the most competitive in the country. Republican Super PACs are buying nearly $83 million worth of airtime this fall.

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series on the Republican candidates running in Ohio’s U.S. Senate primary. 

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