WASHINGTON, D.C. – After ending his failed Ohio U.S. Senate campaign in February 2022, Bernie Moreno told Spectrum News his first run for elected office would be his last.

What You Need To Know

  • Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno spoke with Spectrum News on Thursday after launching his second campaign for U.S. Senate

  • Moreno briefly ran for Senate in 2022 and claimed his first run for elected office would be his last

  • Now, Moreno says the state of the country motivated him to run again, this time to take on Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown
  • Moreno has remained close with former President Donald Trump and is hoping to earn his endorsement 

“In terms of you seeing me as a candidate in the future, that’s a hard no,” Moreno said in an interview in March of last year.

This week, Moreno launched his second bid.

“So here’s the announcement, I’m running for the United States Senate,” Moreno told supporters at a launch event in Milford on Tuesday. 

On Thursday, Moreno spoke with Spectrum News about what changed his mind.

“The country’s gotten worse. Things have gotten even worse than they were before,” he said. “And I’ve really come to the conclusion that the problem we have is that we have career politicians from both parties, insiders, that are ruining the country.” 

Moreno is now the second Republican to officially join the 2024 race for Senate in Ohio, a competition that is being watched nationally and could decide which party controls the closely divided deliberative body. State Sen. Matt Dolan (R) entered the race in January.

Incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) is running for a fourth six-year term, hoping to remain the only Democrat elected statewide in Ohio.

Moreno is a Cleveland businessman who made millions as a luxury car dealer and tech entrepreneur.

A longtime Republican donor, Moreno decided in 2021 to try running for elected office. He entered the crowded GOP primary field to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R).

Moreno invested $3.8 million of his own money in the race, but dropped out before votes were cast. 

In a statement released in February 2022, Moreno said he had met personally with former President Donald Trump and they both agreed “this race has too many Trump candidates and could cost the MAGA movement a conservative seat.”

Soon after, Moreno endorsed fellow Republican JD Vance. He got so involved in Vance’s campaign that Moreno played the role of Tim Ryan, Vance’s Democratic opponent, in debate prep.

Moreno also spent the rest of 2022 strengthening his relationship with Trump. His daughter, Emily, worked on the Trump campaign and is married to freshman Ohio U.S. Representative Max Miller, a former Trump White House aide. Their wedding was last August at Trump’s Bedminster golf club.

Last week, Trump released a statement on his Truth Social platform encouraging Moreno to run for Senate again. “He would not be easy to beat, especially against Brown, one of the worst in the Senate!” Trump wrote.

Days later, Moreno officially launched.

“We have an entirely new team. I’ve obviously built statewide relationships that I didn’t have before,” he told Spectrum News when asked what will be different this time around.

Moreno is hoping his statewide network and increased potential for a Trump endorsement will help him clinch the Republican nomination.

“Obviously his endorsement matters,” Moreno said of Trump. “He’s very popular in Ohio, rightfully so. He did some great things for Ohio and for America, and people appreciate that.”

Moreno is running as a Trump conservative. He backs the former president’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen and is calling for the government to shut down until the southern border is sealed off.

Dolan, the state senator who is Moreno’s lone primary opponent so far, is a fiscally conservative legislator who also ran for U.S. Senate in 2022 and made waves as the lone GOP candidate to distance himself from Trump and focus squarely on policy.

Spectrum News spoke with Dolan in January, after he launched his second campaign.

Dolan hails from the wealthy family that owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team. Like Moreno, he has the resources to self-fund.

On Thursday, Moreno said he will pour some of his own money into this race, but he also plans to build a grassroots-driven campaign.

“What I won’t do is write a check for $20 or $30 or $40 million to buy a Senate seat. I don’t think that’s good for democracy,” he said.

Moreno speaks fondly of Dolan on a personal level, but said the two Republicans couldn’t be further apart on policy.

“Matt’s a nice man, but I think the idea that we need to send nice people to D.C. is over. He’s a career politician, he’s a professional politician,” Moreno said.

Vance, who won last year’s election and was sworn-in as a senator in January, has not yet announced who he will support in this race.

“I'm not going to make any news today...but Bernie's a good friend, was very helpful to us during the campaign,” Vance told Spectrum News on Tuesday.

He added, “I think we've got a few good candidates. And when I'm ready to say more, I'll let you know."

Meanwhile, Brown, one of just three Democrats up for reelection in states Trump won, is choosing not to comment much on his growing list of rivals.

“I don’t really have many thoughts on what happens in the Republican primary,” Brown said in an interview on Thursday. “I know, so far, there’s two gazillionaires who will spend family money, millions of dollars in family money, to beat each other up.”

While Dolan comes from wealth, Moreno regularly points out that he started his own businesses after his parents came to America from Colombia when he was five.

Other Republicans considering a run for Senate include Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Southwest Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson.