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Analysis: Matt Dolan Wants To Change The Subject In Ohio's GOP Senate Primary

Ohio Senator Matt Dolan speaks during an Ohio Senate session.
Ohio Senate
Ohio Senator Matt Dolan speaks during an Ohio Senate session.

At long last, this crowded field of Republican U.S. Senate candidates has someone who can speak about something other than eternal fealty to Donald Trump and not spend his or her every waking hour saying they are the Trumpiest candidate of them all.

State Sen. Matt Dolan, a Republican from the Cleveland suburb of Chagrin Falls, has other things he wants to talk about.

Things that might appeal to Republican primary voters interested in issues and not just back-and-forth about who kowtowed the most to Trump.

"I'm the only candidate in this field who has a positive record of producing for Ohio,'' said Dolan, a member of the Ohio Senate GOP leadership who formally announced his candidacy over the weekend. "The only one who has actually done things."

Hard to argue with.

The rest of the field, all running to replace the retiring Republican incumbent Rob Portman, is rather slim on actual service in elected office.

It ranges from Josh Mandel, a former state treasurer who has spent much of his career yearning for the U.S. Senate, to a bunch of people who have never been elected to any significant office – J.D. Vance of Middletown, the author of the best-selling book Hillbilly Elegy; Jane Timken, a Cincinnati native who was Trump's hand-picked Ohio Republican Party chair until she quit to run for the Senate; investment banker Mike Gibbons and car dealer Bernie Moreno.

As part of the GOP leadership in Columbus, Dolan told WVXU he has a record he can point to, including a 48% decrease in income taxes and the fact that abortions in the state are down 58% while he has been in office.

Pretty good stuff to feed a crowd of hungry conservative Republican primary voters.

Honestly, from what we have seen so far in this race, the only thing the five aforementioned candidates want to do is poke each other with the Trump stick and claim to be the Trumpiest kid on the block.

Dolan doesn't much like to talk about Trump, and it is impossible to get him to say anything truly negative about the former president. He is certainly not going to get involved in the on-going scrum to win the 45th president's endorsement – if and when Trump decides to give it. So far, though, Trump just seems content to torture the Ohio GOP candidates by holding back.

He'd much rather talk about President Joe Biden and why he thinks the 46th president has been a disaster – the total pullout from Afghanistan "which has cost American soldiers their lives," and how Biden "is killing the American economy."

"I'm a conservative who wants to go to Washington and stand up against the Biden administration,'' Dolan said.

Dolan's family owns Cleveland's Major League Baseball team, which will be changing its name from the Indians to the Guardians next season. In July, Dolan took off on a two-month long "listening tour" and came away with the conclusion that there was room for a results-driven politician in the GOP Senate field.

"I think my record will speak directly to the voters,'' Dolan said. "I am all about getting things done."

He seems to have an understanding of the old phrase "all politics is local."

Dolan expressed amazement that all of the other GOP Senate candidates backed Trump and opposed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill negotiated by Portman. It will produce $10 billion for projects in Ohio.

"I just don't see how they could oppose something that would do so much good for people in Ohio,'' Dolan said.

"People in Cincinnati have an interest in doing something about that big old bridge down there,'' Dolan said, referring, of course, to the Brent Spence Bridge.

Dolan won't speculate on how this primary contest for the Senate will play out.

But, clearly, if there are five Trump acolytes splitting up the vote, it creates an opportunity for a candidate like Dolan to take the more moderate, mainstream GOP vote in Ohio, which could be more than enough for him to win the primary with a plurality.

And it would be proof positive that a Republican can win in Ohio without constantly bowing and scraping before Trump.
Copyright 2021 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.