Renacci names filmmaker as running mate while U.S. Senate hopefuls step up ad game in busy December

Rep. Jim Renacci defends President Trump's reported remarks about immigrants
Posted at 6:11 PM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 19:54:12-05

CLEVELAND — Republican gubernatorial hopeful Jim Renacci is going outside the realm of politics in picking the man he'd like to serve beside him as Lt. Governor, tapping filmmaker Joe Knopp for the post in his primary challenge of Governor Mike DeWine.

Raised in an orphanage and an Air Force Veteran, Knopp produced the 2018 music biopic "I Can Only Imagine" starring Dennis Quaid and the 2019 pro-life feature film "Unplanned."

Knopp has skills Renacci tells News 5 he plans to tap.

"Oh absolutely — he can tell a story better than any and I think your listeners that are watching and for the first time getting to know Joe Knopp are going to realize if they watch his movies he does bring a talent, and I think that is a real key,” Renacci said.

He brings something else — a close relationship with the Trump family, having last year produced the pro-Trump documentary "The Trump I Know." News 5 asked Renacci if he thought that might lure the former president to make an endorsement.

“Well look, I don't know if the former president is on the fence, off the fence. I did have an opportunity to speak with the former president just three weeks ago,” Renacci said. “If he is going to get off the fence it will be for me.”

“He's definitely reaching out to the Trump constituency that very much favors people who are outsiders,” said News 5 Political Analyst Tom Sutton of Baldwin Wallace University. “People who look as if they're almost rebels to the system and are looking to upend and change things radically. That's been a lot of the Trump message and that of politicians like Jim Renacci, who are trying to run with that mantle and with that support.”

The announcement is not the only political move in the normally-quiet time between Thanksgiving and New Years. In the five-person Republican race for the U.S. Senate nomination, Bernie Moreno today began a full-court press with an unprecedented $4 million, six-week ad buy.

"He's really trying to brand himself before others do,” Sutton said. “It makes good sense because his name is relatively unknown across the state."

It comes as Republican Senate hopeful Mike Gibbons announced a half-million-dollar ad buy, but with his ad targeting fellow Republican J.D. Vance.

When asked if he'll use any of his $4 million going after his opponents, Moreno said no, something he learned in business.

"When I was in the retail world I never made the case as to why somebody should buy a product from me because the other product was bad,” Moreno said. “At the end of the day voters are sick of that. They really want to know what will you do to make my life better."

Still, it is December, and Case Western's Justin Buchler thinks all of this might be little remembered by voters come May.

"People are paying attention to the economy right now, people are paying attention to COVID right now, so what candidates are doing at this early stage in the primary is just trying to signal viability,” said Buchler.