WASHINGTON, D.C. — Less than three weeks after Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced he will retire in 2022, the first official candidate to succeed him has formally entered the race.

Former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) was not planning to run again in 2022, but once Portman’s unexpected announcement happened, Mandel said his phone started ringing.

What You Need To Know

  • Mandel returns to public life after several years out of the political spotlight

  • He told Spectrum News he probably would not have run if Rep. Jim Jordan had

  • Mandel insists Ohioans want a pro-Trump senator

“Frankly, I wanted to see first what Congressman Jordan decided because, you know, Jim Jordan is a friend of mine,” Mandel said Thursday. “He's someone I admire. He's someone I look up to, and if Jim was going to run, then I probably would not have.”

Once Jim Jordan (R, OH-4), one of former President Donald Trump’s closest allies in Congress, decided against a Senate campaign, Mandel made it official. He launched his bid Wednesday and said he was motivated by the “sham impeachment” trial currently happening in Washington.

“What we need is pro-Trump, America-First conservatives,” Mandel said in his interview with Spectrum News.

This is Mandel’s third campaign for U.S. Senate.

He was the Republican nominee in 2012 and lost to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Six years later, he vowed to go after Brown again but ended up dropping out of the race in the primary to care for his then-wife as she dealt with an undisclosed health problem.

Josh and Ilana Mandel have since separated, but she said in a statement provided by the campaign that she looks “forward to doing whatever I can to help elect Josh to the U.S. Senate.”

Mandel is a Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Iraq before serving two terms as Ohio Treasurer.

He describes himself as a constitutional conservative and has no problem calling out Democrats or Republicans he disagrees with, including Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) and former Ohio Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton, a Democrat who is considering her own run for Senate.

“She was a total failure,” Mandel said. “She was dead wrong, her numbers were way off, and unfortunately, the Acton-DeWine shutdowns here in Ohio were based on bad numbers and bad math. And I think that's going to be a big part of this campaign.”

Mandel thinks coronavirus restrictions should be lifted and he hasn’t yet committed to getting the vaccine, even though he contracted the virus last year.

He said he supported every aspect of Trump’s presidency, including Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen from him.

Mandel said he would have objected to certifying the results on Jan. 6 had he been in office.

“In my mind, there was no downside to that,” Mandel said. “And it would have, it would have projected and empowered the voice of the 75 million people who voted for President Trump.”

He also doesn’t blame Trump for the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“I think a lot of the images of Jan. 6 were tragic and horrific. I also feel very strongly that it was not President Trump who incited that,” Mandel said.

Mandel spent the last few years out of the political spotlight and raising money for Trump’s failed reelection campaign. He starts this Senate race with more than $4 million in the bank left over from his last race.

Mandel is also already going after who he considers “establishment” Republicans, like Ohio Congressman Anthony Gonzalez (R, OH-16) who voted to impeach Trump.

“I think the voters in Ohio in the past two presidential elections have made it very clear, they don't want a moderate running Ohio or running America,” Mandel said. “I'm the opposite of a moderate.”

Ohio Democrats are already going after Mandel.

Sen. Brown’s campaign sent an email to supporters saying Mandel is “no stranger to deep-pocketed special interests,” and Rep. Tim Ryan (D, OH-13), who’s strongly considering running for Senate, emailed supporters saying Mandel’s career “is riddled with fraud and shame.”