CLEVELAND — With Rob Portman set to retire from the Unites States Senate in 2022, several names have been bandied about as possible contenders for the Ohio Republican's soon-to-be-open seat. Now, it appears a prominent local businessman is looking to join the fray.
The Wall Street Journal reports Cleveland area entrepreneur and car dealership owner Bernie Moreno will "likely" enter the race to succeed Portman. The 53-year-old would run as a Republican, and sources say his efforts became more serious after U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan's campaign announced the congressman would not be running for the seat this past week.
Moreno, who is apparently talking to GOP strategists about his prospects, shared the following text with 3News that seemed to confirmed he is at least thinking about running:
"I [do] not have any new information to share. I wish Rob Portman would stay on as Senator. He's effective, smart, serious; exactly what's needed. As you can imagine, this is a monumental decision for my family and it's important for me to make certain they are 100% on board. Thanks!"
A native of Colombia, Moreno owns several high-end car dealerships in Cleveland and around the country, though he sold a number of them recently to focus his efforts on expanding blockchain technology. In the latter venture, he currently runs Ownum, which specializes in digitizing records.
Check out Will Ujek's conversation with Moreno on 3News' "Let's Be Clear" back in 2019:
Though he has not run for political office before, Moreno has become a well known donor to Ohio Republicans, and the Journal notes his daughter Emily took part in former President Donald Trump's unsuccessful reelection campaign last year. The elder Moreno did generate controversy back in March with a tweet that appeared to downplay the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he later expressed regret for his statements and praised the efforts of Gov. Mike DeWine's administration to control the spread of the virus.
Moreno was not the only potential Senate candidate named by the Journal: Former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel is reportedly "strongly considering" entering the race along with Ohio GOP Chairwoman Jane Murphy Timken. Reps. Bill Johnson, Steve Strivers, and Mike Turner along with businessman Vivek Ramaswamy are also talking about running for the Republican nomination; Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Rep. Tim Ryan, and former Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman are expressing interest on the Democratic side.
Portman announced his decision not to run for a third term on Monday, citing the worsening partisan politics of Washington. The 65-year-old Cincinnati native won both of his Senate elections by double digits over former Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and former Gov. Ted Strickland, respectively.