Josh Mandel's Senate campaign sees exodus of fundraisers, sources say

Laura A. Bischoff Haley BeMiller
The Columbus Dispatch
Former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Rob Portman, has seen an exodus of fundraisers from his campaign.

Three fundraisers recently resigned from Republican Josh Mandel's U.S. Senate campaign, prompting questions about the strength of his fundraising operation, according to Republican sources close to the campaign.

Mandel campaign spokesman Scott Guthrie declined to comment on personnel matters but issued a written statement that said: "I can tell you that polling continues to show Josh as the heavy double-digit winner of this race. The more voters hear his pro-Trump, anti-establishment message, the more they are energized to vote for him and the larger our base grows."

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Mandel and the three fundraisers did not return messages seeking comment. The treasurer for Mandel's campaign committee, Citizens for Josh Mandel, also did not respond to an interview request.

The sources are not being named because they fear retribution by the Mandel campaign.

Who is running against Josh Mandel?

Mandel is in a contentious GOP primary race for U.S. Senate against former Ohio GOP chairwoman Jane Timken, technology company executive Bernie Moreno and investment banker Mike Gibbons and a handful of lesser-known candidates. Author and investor J.D. Vance and state Sen. Matt Dolan of Chagrin Falls are also considering getting into the race.

In this image from video, former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel takes his 2022 U.S. Senate campaign to CPAC on Feb. 26. "Josh, please reassess your ill-defined platform, which seems to consist solely of faux outrage and regurgitated Trumpisms," columnist Theodore Decker says.

This marks Mandel's fifth statewide run in 12 years.

Mandel has already switched fundraising agreements

Mandel is on his second joint fundraising agreement of the 2022 cycle. He started out with Delaware County GOP on March 14 but switched to the Shelby County Republican Party on May 3, according to Federal Elections Commission records. Delaware County GOP Chairman Steven Cuckler could not be reached for comment and the Mandel campaign declined to elaborate why the change was made.

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Shelby County GOP officials did not respond to a reporter's questions.

The agreement allows money to flow to his campaign account Citizens for Josh Mandel, political action committee JOSH PAC and the county party's federal candidate fund. 

Participants in a joint fundraising effort sign a written agreement, decide on how to split the funds, set up a separate account, and file reports. Donors can write one check that can be divided among the parties and the political entities can split fundraising expenses.

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The joint fundraising committee, Team Josh, raised $1.36 million in the first quarter of the year, but that amount was divided among the three groups and could not be spent exclusively on the Senate campaign.

Here is where Mandel currently stands on fund-raising 

Citizens for Josh Mandel separately received nearly $33,000 in contributions — the bulk of which came from individual donors outside Ohio — and spent around $28,000 on media placement. Mandel’s committee also had $4.2 million cash on hand.

Timken, meanwhile, has leveraged fundraising power from her tenure with the state GOP and collected $1.1 million in donations in the first quarter. She also took out a $1 million loan for her campaign.

The next campaign finance report, which covers fundraising and spending through June 30, is due on July 15.

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Josh Mandel's past political experience

Mandel, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who did two tours in Iraq, served as a city councilman, state lawmaker and state treasurer and has long had ambitions for the U.S. Senate. He lost to Democrat Sherrod Brown in 2012 and announced in 2016 that he would challenge Brown again in 2018.

In the lead-up to Mandel's second run against Brown, the state treasurer's office spent nearly $1.7 million in public money on TV ads featuring Mandel and Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer to promote an investment program for Ohioans with disabilities.

In January 2018, Mandel abruptly dropped out of the race, citing his wife's health concerns.

The couple, who have three young children, filed for dissolution in Ashland County, where the judge granted them a motion to seal the court file. The Mandel campaign in February voluntarily released hard copies of the file to Ohio political reporters but the case remains sealed.

Josh Mandel is looking for support from Trump voters

On the campaign trail, Mandel has promised to "never take a knee in the culture wars." He has tried to pick up support from Trump voters with attacks on the press, calling U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez a traitor after Gonzalez voted to impeach Trump, and bashing Gov. Mike DeWine and his former health director Dr. Amy Acton.

He also sponsored a Dr. Seuss book drive in March after the author's estate opted to stop printing some of his works that used racial and ethnic stereotypes, which triggered a short-lived controversy among conservatives irate over cancel culture.