COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican state Sen. Matt Dolan formally entered the race for Ohio's open U.S. Senate seat on Monday, adding a centrist voice more akin to exiting Republican Rob Portman's than to the crowded, Trump-aligned field of GOP hopefuls.
In a telephone interview, Dolan said Portman's work building a bipartisan coalition to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure package — a bill he supported and other Senate candidates opposed — as an example of the results-driven effort Ohioans want from a senator.
“I am the only one with experience," he said. "I have a record of results, and what Republicans want is somebody to go and engage and get things done.”
The 56-year-old, whose family owns the Cleveland Indians, spent weeks on his listening tour ahead of Monday's announcement. He began it by casting himself as a tough but pragmatic politician in the tradition of Portman and the late astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn — the latter a bold reference to a Democrat in a state where politics are increasingly polarized.
“After meeting with Republicans, conservative activists and community leaders across Ohio in recent weeks, it’s clear that the focus of the race for U.S. Senate has yet to be about our people, our interests, and our beloved state,” Dolan said in his announcement, promising to change that.
He joins a field that includes former state Republican chair Jane Timken, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, author and venture capitalist JD Vance and Cleveland businesspeople Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno. Most are openly vying for former President Donald Trump's attention and endorsement.
In particular, Mandel has adopted Trump's style in his campaign, criticizing immigrants, ethnic groups and Democrats on Twitter, blasting the media as the enemy and condemning COVID-19 vaccine and masking requirements.
Dolan, meanwhile, has said someone once called him the “nicest meanest person” they had met and that he tries not to resort to name-calling.
Democrats predicted Dolan's entry into the race will do little to tone down the rhetoric, however.
“Add Matt Dolan to the long list of out-of-touch millionaires vying for the GOP Senate nomination," spokesperson Michael Beyer said in a statement. “With this latest addition to the GOP clown show, this primary is sure to get nastier, more divisive and more expensive all while Ohio voters and their interests get left behind.”
Dolan is a partner in a Cleveland law firm, vice president of a business and real estate management firm, adjunct law professor and former assistant county prosecutor and assistant Ohio attorney general.
He served three terms in the Ohio House from 2005 to 2010, more recently returning to the Statehouse as a senator in 2017.
On social issues, Dolan has supported restrictions on abortion, but he voted against a bill restricting the procedure at the first detectable fetal heartbeat because he believed it would draw an expensive federal court challenge that seemed at the time unwinnable.
“I vote on common-sense, conservative matters that make a difference in people’s lives,” he has said.
Dolan also sponsored a package of firearm reforms proposed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine after the deadly 2019 mass shooting in Dayton, challenging those who saw it as assailing Second Amendment rights. Despite initial bipartisan support, the bill stalled.
As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Dolan just finished helping to negotiate the two-year, $75 billion state budget that included a 3% personal income tax cut for Ohioans and enacted a bipartisan school-funding solution that was years in the making.
The baseball franchise Dolan's family owns announced plans in December to replace the name Cleveland Indians after 105 years. The move was a response to criticism for years that the name was racist amid the national racial reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd.
Dolan has called the decision an unfortunate consequence of the “culture wars," which have placed pressure on businesses that sometimes cannot be responsibly ignored.