U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci announced Thursday that he is ending his Republican race for Ohio governor to enter instead the GOP race for the U.S. Senate.
Renacci’s decision follows Friday’s announcement by Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel that he was ending his bid for a rematch with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) because of a health issue with his wife.
Renacci entered the race for governor in March of last year and while competitive in early fundraising numbers with Mike DeWine and Jon Husted, it was money he had primarily lent to his campaign.
News 5 Political Analyst Dr. Tom Sutton of Baldwin Wallace University said the switch makes sense. “He’s been building a campaign, he’s been going among the state, he’s tied himself very much to President Trump and his agenda, he’s been successful in Congress in getting re-elected a few times and so he makes the most sense of the gubernatorial candidates to jump into that race,” Sutton said.
The Trump support was key to the Renacci decision with Thursday’s announcement coming following a meeting Wednesday with White House political staff including top political adviser Bill Stepien, who reportedly encouraged him to run.
"He wants to change Washington," Renacci said of President Trump while appearing on WHK-AM 1420.
"He needs help and it was a compelling answer yesterday that look I know you think that [Washington] is dysfunctional but I can change it if I get your help and I would appreciate it if you would put country first. It's not that the state's not important but without straightening out this country we're going to have some serious issues," Renacci said of the message from the White House.
Cleveland area businessman Mike Gibbons, the only other announced candidate vowed to stay in the race and pledged an additional $5 million of his own money if needed to defeat Sherrod Brown.
His campaign general consultant Mike Biundo said of the Renacci decision, “voters want a true outsider in the race and are tired of career politicians who are always interested in their next job. The fact remains that Mike Gibbons is far better positioned to defeat Sherrod Brown than any member of Congress."
Still, there remains another possible entry into the race in the person of “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance who met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado Wednesday. Gardner chairs the Republican Senate campaign committee.
The Middletown Ohio native whose book of a family and culture in crisis became a New York Times bestseller initially declined to run for the seat but is reconsidering following the Mandel decision.
While some Republicans may run campaigns in 2018 that look to distance themselves from the president, Renacci said his will not be one of them.
"I really believe I need to put country first and answer the call to action to serve our nation and come back and try and fight for the Trump agenda and try and get things done in the Senate," Renacci said.