BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Northeast Ohio Congressman, and one-time Valley resident, Jim Renacci brought his campaign for U.S. Senate to Boardman Friday morning, but this wasn’t his first choice.
“If you go back two weeks ago, I was telling people I am staying in the governor’s race unless I get a call from the president,” Renacci said.
In many Republican circles, Renacci was already falling behind front-runner Mike DeWine in the race for the party’s nomination. But then, State Treasurer Josh Mandel abruptly ended his Senate campaign, leaving only newcomer Mike Gibbons, a Cleveland businessman.
“It didn’t look good in the governor’s race, and this presents him with an opportunity and he’s jumped on it,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons, who has promised to put up $5 million of his own money to run, claims Renacci doesn’t have much of a record to stand on.
“He heads off with, ‘I’m in a legislative body. I’ve been ineffective in a legislative body. I don’t think I can get anything done,'” Gibbons said.
Still, Renacci, who won his first term by beating Valley native John Boccieri in 2010, claims he has the support of the Trump administration in unseating long-time Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown.
“Do you send a pilot up who has been through a battle and won or do you send a rookie pilot up in a tough situation like this?” Renacci said.
But, Gibbons claims an overwhelming number of Ohioans would rather see an outsider like himself win the race, rather than someone who’s now serving in Congress.
“The voters of Ohio, the Republican voters of Ohio, are going to have a say and we’ve got some great candidates to choose from,” said Mark Munroe, chairman of the Mahoning County Board of Elections.
A choice those voters will be making a little more than three months from now.