Matt Dolan, the Senate candidate who was the biggest surprise as he surged during the closing weeks of Ohio’s crowded and combustible Republican nomination race earlier this year, is taking concrete steps that could set him up for a second straight run for the Senate when Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown’s up for reelection in 2024.
Dolan, a state senator from the Cleveland area, was showered with support earlier this week during an event in Columbus where he was inducted into the Association of Ohio Commodores, an organization that assists the state in its advancement of economic growth and prosperity. The event attracts political leaders and activists from across Ohio. According to one attendee in the room, Dolan received sustained applause and was approached by numerous people pledging their support should he launch a 2024 Senate campaign.
Sources close to Dolan tell Fox News that while he’s not made a final decision on a bid, he’s taken steps in recent weeks to expand his pool of potential donor support and secure senior leadership for his campaign and leadership PAC, should he press ahead with a candidacy in the new year.
Dolan, a former state representative who later served as a county chief assistant prosecutor and state assistant attorney general before winning office as a state senator, was a long shot when he launched his Senate bid in the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman.
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While much of the crowded and combustible field of Republican Senate candidates in Ohio showcased their loyalty to former President Donald Trump (who won Ohio by eight points in his 2016 presidential election victory and 2020 reelection defeat) and took aim at each other, Dolan kept his distance from both the crossfire and from Trump while showcasing his conservative credentials and agenda.
Dolan — whose family owns Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians — also shelled out millions of dollars of his own money to run ads for his Senate bid. He surged near the end of the primary race, winning 23.3% of the vote, just behind former state Treasurer Josh Mandel at 23.9%. Former hedge fund executive and best-selling author JD Vance won the early May primary with 32.2% of the vote, thanks in part to a last-minute endorsement from Trump.
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Vance topped longtime Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in November’s general election to win the Senate seat. Ryan, who ran for the Senate this year as a populist outsider in the mold of Brown, and who was credited with running a smart campaign, still ended up losing to Vance by six points. While Vance won his contest, other Trump-backed GOP nominees for senator or governor in highly competitive races didn’t fare as well.
The defeat of Trump-endorsed Herschel Walker to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia’s crucial Senate runoff election last week was the latest setback of a Republican nominee handpicked and supported by the former president in the midterm elections. Walker’s loss followed high-profiles defeats by Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz, Arizona’s Kari Lake and Blake Masters, Wisconsin’s Tim Michels, Nevada’s Adam Laxalt and Michigan’s Tudor Dixon.
Trump — with his backing in the Republican primaries of candidates who supported his constant relitigating of his 2020 presidential election loss — faced a chorus of criticism the past month for contributing to the GOP’s lackluster performance in the midterms when they failed to win back control of the Senate and only secured a razor-thin majority in the House in what was expected to be a red-wave cycle.
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Some party strategists argue that Dolan, unlike some others eyeing a potential bid in Ohio, is unburdened by the Trump distractions, making him a formidable contender against an entrenched, three-term incumbent like Brown.
Brown, who’s the only Democrat to win statewide in Ohio in the past decade, announced shortly after the 2022 midterm elections that intends to seek reelection. He’ll be heavily targeted by Republicans in a state that was once a premiere battleground but has shifted red over the past six years.
In a letter he sent to Ohio GOP county chairs last month that was obtained by Fox News, Dolan signaled his interest in another Senate run, writing that “the time we have for introspection is limited. Before we know it, 2024 will be upon us and we have work to do. We must… ensure Joe Biden and Sherrod Brown are sent packing.”
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Dolan sent the email after receiving encouragement from party leaders and activists to consider a second straight Senate run, sources told Fox News.
“I am still deciding, and I want to focus on what it’s going to take to win,” said Dolan in an interview with Fox News Digital last month.
“Is it right for the family? Do I have the fire in the belly to run and serve? And, can I make a difference? Once those three boxes are checked, then I will decide,” Dolan told Fox.
If Dolan does run again, besides his ability to self-finance his campaign, it also appears likely that he would enjoy the support of two outside PACs, Ohio Matters PAC and Buckeye Leadership Fund.
Dolan political strategist Chris Maloney touted that “Republicans in Ohio clearly recognize Matt Dolan’s proven ability to run a well-resourced and grassroots-focused campaign capable of winning a competitive primary and the general election. When tested, he remained true to his conservative principles, rejected fringe conspiracy theories, and never hesitated to put the needs of Ohioans first. As a result, he established a firm base of statewide support, running strong in areas Republicans must win to defeat Sherrod Brown.”
But Dolan’s far from the only potential Senate contender.
Among others mulling bids or being mentioned as possible Republican candidates are Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, state attorney General Dave Yost, venture capitalist Mark Kvamme, businessman and 2022 GOP Senate candidate Bernie Moreno and Rep. Warren Davidson.
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“Ohio is a different state than when Sherrod Brown last ran in 2018,” veteran Ohio based Republican consultant Mike Hartley told Fox News.
“There are a number of very talented potential candidates that I’m sure are taking a very serious look at the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat. What looks like will be another potentially good Republican year, particularly in Ohio with the presidential race, the opportunity is there for the Republican pickup in the Senate.”