Three Republicans on Ohio’s primary ballot battle to face U.S. Sen. Brown in November

Brown is unopposed in primary

Credit: Associated Press & Contributed

Credit: Associated Press & Contributed

Three Ohio Republicans, each portraying himself as the most conservative choice for U.S. Senate, are on the March 19 Republican Party primary ballot.

The winner will face U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat who has been in the senate since 2007 and is unopposed in the Democratic Party primary.

The Republicans are state Sen. Matt Dolan of Chagrin Falls, Secretary of State Frank LaRose of Columbus, and Bernie Moreno, a businessman from Westlake.

Both Dolan and LaRose were interviewed by this newspaper about their positions on the issues. Moreno’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for an interview so information about him was culled from his comments at the Jan. 22 candidate debate in Cleveland, his campaign website and social media, campaign finance data and other public sources.

Much of the money being spent in the campaigns came from the candidates themselves.

Dolan loaned his campaign $7 million of the $9.1 million he raised, according to annual reports filed in January with the Federal Election Commission. He spent nearly $4.3 million.

Moreno raised nearly $7.3 million, $3 million of which was a loan to himself, and spent nearly $5.3 million.

LaRose raised almost $1.9 million, of which $250,000 was a loan to himself. LaRose spent nearly $1.1 million.

Here is a look at the candidates and where they stand on the issues:

Matt Dolan

Dolan, 59, has been a state senator since 2017 and prior to that was in the Ohio House of Representatives for five years. Dolan is part of the Cleveland Baseball Company ownership group, which owns the Cleveland Guardians Major League Baseball team. He also is an attorney and the vice president of a real estate management firm.

Dolan distinguished himself in the 2022 Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate seat then held by Cincinnati Republican Rob Portman by being the only one of the seven candidates who said Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election against then-President Donald Trump. Dolan came in third in that primary, which was won by J.D. Vance, now a U.S. senator. Multiple investigations, audits and court rulings found no evidence that Biden was not the winner.

Dolan said he is the best candidate to beat Brown, and is the candidate with a record of accomplishing conservative policies like those supported by Trump, who is the Republican front-runner in the 2024 presidential race.

“I am very proud of of my record because I think it is a record of a conservative achievement that’s helped Ohio,” Dolan said, touting his votes on reducing taxes and regulations, allowing taxpayer money to be used to pay private school tuition, prohibiting transgender girls from playing school sports on girls teams, and assisting law enforcement with training and equipment.

“I want to go to Washington and actually execute and get in place the policies that that matter to us. We need to secure and seal the border. We need to control spending,” Dolan said. “I think we need to maintain our relationships with our allies. We need to continue to support Ukraine. We’ve got to get inflation under control. We’ve got to get domestic energy production back. We’ve got to create new trade partners.”

Dolan hopes that Republicans regain control of the U.S. Senate and said if that occurs there needs to be more bipartisanship. He said Republicans who say they won’t work with Democrats are “not going to get anything done.”

“To get things done, you’re going to have to recognize that everyone in that senate represents American citizens, so you need to listen to them,” Dolan said.

Credit: Todd Yarrington

Credit: Todd Yarrington

Frank LaRose

LaRose, 43, has been secretary of state, which oversees the state’s elections and business filings, since 2019. He was a state senator for eight years before that. A U.S. Army veteran, he was a member of the army’s special forces, known as the Green Berets, and is now in the U.S. Army Reserve.

As the only candidate who has won election statewide, LaRose said he is the most likely of the three to beat Brown. LaRose said he has the most consistent conservative record and that if he and Trump are elected he is the best person to help Trump accomplish his agenda.

And as the only candidate who is not a millionaire, LaRose said he is more in touch with the needs of everyday Ohioans.

“I’m paid very well for the work I do as Secretary of State. I’m not calling myself poor, but we have to sit there at the end of the month and figure out how we’re going to pay our bills,” LaRose said. “And that’s not a concern that either of my opponents have had for many decades, if ever.”

He contends the U.S. is “heading in a dangerous direction.”

“From the big picture, we’ve all heard candidates say things like this over the years, and it often can sound like hyperbole or exaggeration, but I really think that we have country to save,” LaRose said. “If we don’t act soon, we’ll be the first generation to leave this country weaker, poorer and less secure.”

He said the U.S. Senate is not functioning as well as it should.

“I think there’s too many people that are interested in saying bombastic things to get booked on cable television that night, and less concerned about doing the hard work of actually solving problems,” LaRose said. “And I’m going there to solve problems and to put this country back on track.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Bernie Moreno

Moreno, 57, is the only candidate who has not held public office. This is his second bid for the senate, having run and dropped out of the Republican primary in 2022 after failing to win Trump’s endorsement. This time Trump endorsed him.

Moreno is president of Bernie Moreno Companies. He previously owned multiple luxury car dealerships, which he later sold, and co-founded a blockchain company called ChampTitles that he also sold. A Columbian immigrant, Moreno became a U.S. citizen at age 18.

His website indicates he wants to empower parents to make education choices, “beat Communist China,” hold tech companies accountable, “break up big media,” defend the 2nd Amendment, term limit members of Congress, “End Wokeness and Cancel Culture” and “End Socialism in America.”

Moreno denounced “career politicians” during the Jan. 22 debate and said voters need to quit sending them to Washington. Moreno argues on his campaign website that career politicians have left American workers behind.

But critics point to Moreno’s treatment of his own employees, including lawsuits over unpaid overtime by employees of his auto dealership in Massachusetts and three in Ohio alleging age, gender or racial discrimination.

Moreno was sanctioned by the Massachusetts judge for destroying overtime records that he was ordered to keep. In 2022 the jury in that case found against Moreno and he was ordered to pay $416,160 to the employees, according to WKYC-TV in Cleveland. Moreno later settled more than a dozen similar lawsuits over the same issue. When asked about it in the debate Moreno blamed an “extremist Harvard elite” judge and said courts handling overtime cases had retroactively changed the law regarding overtime pay, a contention debunked by WKYC-TV’s reporting.

Two lawsuits filed in Cuyahoga County in 2015 and 2017 accused Moreno and his company of gender and age discrimination and a third alleged racial discrimination at a dealership operated by a subsidiary of his company, the Associated Press reported in January. All were settled out of court. Moreno said during the debate that two of the three people who sued now support him.


Immigration is a major issue in the race. All three candidates want more walls and barriers built at the U.S.-Mexico border, characterize migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border as an “invasion” and want to end the U.S. Constitution’s protection of birthright citizenship, which grants citizenship to people born within U.S. territory or to a parent who is a U.S. citizen.

“You don’t have a sovereign nation unless you have a secure border,” said LaRose, who wants the U.S. to attack Mexican drug cartels with drones and deploy the military to the border.

He said a wall is not enough because people can scale it but, they would be deterred by the presence of armed soldiers.

Asked if the military should shoot people climbing the wall, LaRose said, “I’m not going to lay out what those rules of engagement should be. But certainly when self-defense is invoked, if the Border Patrol, if their lives are in jeopardy, then they absolutely have that right. But no, you don’t want to use lethal force unless you absolutely have to.”

Moreno’s opponents point to his past support of immigration reform and a path to citizenship, but he now says he opposes amnesty and would deport all of the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.

None of the three gave support for the bipartisan immigration proposal that failed to advance in the U.S. Senate earlier this month after Trump and many Senate and House Republicans came out against it. That bill would have limited the number of people entering the U.S. and it contained funding for improved border security, more help for the border patrol and addressing immigration court backlogs.

“I think it was a bipartisan effort. I don’t think it solved the problem,” said Dolan, calling for new negotiations on immigration reform.

National security

LaRose supports more funding for the military and Dolan said national defense is critically important.

The candidates all support funding for Israel, and Moreno called for firing state university professors who sympathize with Palestinians.

But the candidates differ on funding for Ukraine’s battle against Russia’s invasion, with Moreno saying in the debate that his position on Ukraine mirrors Trump’s and that he would not give the Biden administration any more money to help Ukraine.

LaRose said during the debate that he would not support funding Ukraine until the U.S. border is secured.

Dolan gives full-throated support for Ukraine funding and said most of the money the U.S. provides stays in the U.S., paying for American-produced weapons and ammunition to be sent to Ukraine.

“For America it is a national security risk to have (Russian President Vladimir) Putin in Ukraine,” said Dolan. “Because we need to push back on Russia and Ukraine so we don’t have Ohio boys and girls fighting in Poland or the Baltics or Western Europe.”

Abortion bans

All three candidates opposed Ohio’s reproductive rights constitutional amendment that passed in November and support a federal ban on abortion.

LaRose faced criticism for writing the ballot language that was approved by the state ballot board for the amendment because it did not mention all areas of reproductive health that the amendment aimed to protect and the ballot language used the term “unborn child” instead of “fetus.”

LaRose supports abortion bans that include exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

“I’m not going to put my cards on the table about what number of weeks. I want the fewest abortions possible,” LaRose said.

Moreno supports a federal ban at 15 weeks, he said in the debate.

Dolan said he believes the states should decide abortion limits, and he supports exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. But if voters in more states adopt constitutional amendments protecting reproductive rights like Ohioans did, Dolan said he would support a federal ban at 15 weeks.

Government spending and the economy

Both Dolan and LaRose said despite improving economic data the economy is still difficult for families and businesses due to inflation and interest rates.

Dolan and LaRose also support cutting government spending and reducing taxes, and would extend the 2017 federal tax cuts.

LaRose opposes the green energy subsidies included in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

Dolan and LaRose both said any effort to change looming Medicare and Social Security shortfalls should not be allowed to impact people who are currently receiving those benefits or are close to retirement.

But they said things may need to change for people who are further away from retirement in order to bolster the funds.

LaRose said the federal government should have the ability to negotiate drug prices for Medicare, something the Biden administration is piloting for a few drugs under the provisions of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.

Dolan called for reforming the health care system to give people more information about pricing differences for medicines and procedures, which he believes will drive down costs.

Moreno’s website says he wants to “Massively reduce anti-growth regulations, cut government spending and end inflation.”

Top issues for Republicans

An informal online survey by this news outlet found these were the top national issues for readers who identified themselves as Republican:

1. Immigration

2. The economy

3. National security/military

4. Government spending

5. Inflation

U.S. Senate

6-year term

$174,000 annual salary

Republican Party Candidates

Frank LaRose

Age: 43

Address: Columbus

Education: Bachelor’s degree in consumer affairs and business-Ohio State University

Family: Wife and three school-aged daughters

Current employment: Ohio Secretary of State, U.S. Army Reserve

Political experience: Ohio Secretary of State since 2019, previously Ohio State Senator

Political party: Republican


Matt Dolan

Age: 59

Address: Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Education: Bachelor’s degree-Boston College; Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Family: Wife and two adult sons

Current employment: Ohio State Senator; partner in Thrasher, Dinsmore and Dolan; vice president, 7th Avenue Properties; part of Cleveland Baseball Company ownership group

Political experience: Ohio State Senator since 2017, previously Ohio House of Representatives

Political party: Republican


Bernie Moreno

Age: 57

Address: Westlake, Ohio

Education: Bachelor’s degree in marketing-University of Michigan

Family: Wife and 4 adult children

Current Employment: President Bernie Moreno Companies

Political Experience: None

Political Party: Republican


The Democrat Party candidate

Sherrod Brown

Age: 71

Address: Cleveland, Ohio

Education: Bachelor’s degree-Yale University; Master of Arts and Master of Public Administration-Ohio State University

Family: Wife, four adult children, eight grandchildren

Current employment: U.S. Senate

Political experience: U.S. Senator since 2007, previously U.S. House of Representatives, Ohio Secretary of State, Ohio House of Representatives

Political party: Democrat


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