Meet the Conservative Trying to Unseat Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown

Josh Mandel running as an unabashed conservative, Constitution defender

Josh Mandel

Josh Mandel / AP

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Josh Mandel, Ohio's 39-year-old Republican state treasurer, is making his second attempt to unseat Democrat Sherrod Brown in the U.S. Senate by running as a conservative and defender of the Constitution.

Mandel, a former Marine who served as a state representative before winning election to two terms as state treasurer, spoke with the Washington Free Beacon about his 2018 campaign to "transfer the power from the politicians to the people."

Among Mandel's goals as a senator would be instituting term limits to "clean out" veteran politicians who have stayed too long in Washington, torching political correctness in the fight against Islamic extremism, and rolling back federal government regulations that have squeezed entrepreneurs and small businesses. He is also passionate about enforcing immigration laws and protecting Ohio's oil, gas, and coal industries.

"I think that everyday taxpayers are fed up with the feeling that Washington is rigged on behalf of special interests and lobbyists and I think there is a hunger for a new generation of leaders to come shake this place up," Mandel said in Washington, D.C., just blocks from the U.S. Capitol building.

The 2018 Senate race will pit the young conservative against Brown, a liberal politician 30 years Mandel's senior who has been in Washington for more than two decades. The way Mandel sees it, Ohio voters will have a clear choice between a veteran politician who has stayed in Washington to "do well" and a leader from the next generation who is unafraid of standing up for conservative principles.

"I think the voters of Ohio are going to have a choice of do they want someone who ran on term limits and then changed [his] mind so he could spend his entire adult life in Washington like Sherrod Brown, or someone like me who is going to come here to Washington, do as much good as possible, and then go home and live under the budget and laws that I created," Mandel said.

Mandel, who announced his campaign on Dec. 7, has already received endorsements from a slew of conservative organizations, including the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks.

A poll released last month by the conservative Club for Growth showed Mandel with a substantial edge over his potential primary opponents, with a majority 59 percent of voters expressing a favorable opinion of Mandel.

The young Republican likely faces a fierce battle against Brown, who he unsuccessfully challenged in 2012. Brown defeated Mandel by six points to win reelection to the U.S. Senate.

Brown has served in the Senate since 2007 and represented Ohio's 13th district in Congress for 13 years before that. The Democrat has had a long career in politics, serving as Ohio's secretary of state and a member of the state's general assembly before coming to Washington.

Brown has worked across the aisle with Ohio Sen. Rob Portman on issues such as protecting the state's steelworkers and tackling opioid abuse. He sits on multiple Senate committees, including the Committee on Veterans Affairs and Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, which he chairs.

WPA Research, a Republican pollster, released polling conducted between Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 showing Mandel with a one-point lead over Brown. The slim lead is within the poll's margin of error.

Should he win, Mandel would be one of the youngest U.S. senators. Mandel views his youth as an asset.

"It's not about the age, it's about the miles. The miles I have patrolled on foot in the sands of Iraq, the miles I have walked door-to-door throughout the state of Ohio, hearing the concerns of hard-working families in my state," Mandel told the Free Beacon. "It's also about bringing a fresh perspective to Washington."

"I see my youth and energy as an asset to the conservative cause and I think if you look throughout American history, many times over it has been younger men and women who have been agents for change, agents in a dynamic way that really serves as a passing of the baton from generation to generation both in the conservative movement and the Republican party," he said.

When asked about his accomplishments as state treasurer, Mandel pointed to his work releasing the Ohio checkbook online, which gives taxpayers a look at how the state spends its money, and improving Ohio's rating on government transparency. Mandel also helped dig the state out of an $8 billion budget hole; Ohio's finances have moved from 43rd to 7th in national rankings since 2011.

The success of Republican candidates in Ohio during the 2016 cycle could bode well for Mandel, who vocally supported Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and later GOP nominee Donald Trump for president.

Mandel announced his campaign a month after Portman handily defeated Democratic challenger Ted Strickland to retain his Senate seat. Trump prevailed over Hillary Clinton in the state.

For now, Mandel is focused on building a grassroots coalition to propel his campaign, which was a factor in Portman's success in the 2016 election.

"Our main focus is on building a grassroots army throughout Ohio. I have been elected to statewide office twice and I have been one of the leaders of the conservative movement in Ohio," Mandel explained.

"We've got this strong and passionate base of conservative activists around Ohio who volunteered to help with our campaign. We're going to be focused on building it bigger, stronger, and wider over the next few months."

Morgan Chalfant   Email Morgan | Full Bio | RSS
Morgan Chalfant is a staff writer at the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, Morgan worked as a staff writer at Red Alert Politics. She also served as the year-long Collegiate Network fellow on the editorial page at USA TODAY from 2013-14. Morgan graduated from Boston College in 2013 with a B.A. in English and Mathematics. Her Twitter handle is @mchalfant16.