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LaRose enters race for the U.S. Senate while being at the forefront of a controversial ballot issue

Secretary of State Frank LaRose
Jo Ingles

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has done what has long been expected by Ohio political watchers by jumping into the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat in 2024.

LaRose joins entrepreneur Bernie Moreno and State Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls). The winner will take on Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown next November.

Frank LaRose tweeted out a video with the words, “It’s official: I’m running.” The video shows LaRose running past a gas station, a school, through a park, past a veteran’s plaza in an Upper Arlington park and past a sign urging a “yes” vote on Issue 1. LaRose is a key backer of the constitutional amendment on the Aug. 8 ballot that would raise the voter approval threshold for future amendments from a simple majority to 60%.

LaRose said his campaign will focus on restoring Ohio’s voice and values to the U.S. Senate.

“Like a lot of Ohioans, I’m concerned about the direction of our country,” LaRose said. “I’m not willing to sit quietly while the woke left tries to cancel the American Dream. We have a duty to defend the values that made America the hope of the world.”

LaRose was elected secretary of state in 2018 and is term-limited. Before that, he was a state senator. LaRose, who touts his military service, saying if elected, he will be the first Green Beret in the U.S. Senate in history. He said he believes he will start off with a strong lead in the polls.

LaRose's entry into the race has come later than some had anticipated and it is happening now, while he is at the forefront of the campaign in support of Issue 1 – the proposed constitutional change that Ohio voters will decide next month that would make it harder for future citizen-led constitutional amendments to pass or even get onto the ballot. That vote comes just months ahead of a possible November ballot issue to enshrine abortion rights into Ohio’s constitution.

LaRose has told crowds the issue is "100%" about blocking the abortion amendment, but has also said it would protect the constitution from a variety of "special interests" in the future. Unions, Democrats, groups supporting various issues and some Republicans have opposed Issue 1, saying it would do the opposite because special interests would be the only ones who would be able to mount a constitutional change if Issue 1 passes.

When asked if failure of that amendment would set him back in his Senate campaign, LaRose said passage of Issue 1 is crucial because constitutional changes should not be changed by a simple majority.

“I don’t make my decisions based on what’s good or bad for me politically. I am not one of these people who needs to stick his finger in the wind to figure out which way it is blowing. I think leaders have to lead,” LaRose said.

LaRose joins a primary with two candidates who also ran for U.S. Senate in 2022, and lost to J.D. Vance, who eventually won the seat.

State senator and Cleveland Guardians part owner Matt Dolan announced he was running for U.S. Senate in January. Tech entrepreneur and luxury car dealer Bernie Moreno entered the race in April. At the time, Moreno said he expected the primary to be a two-person contest and hinted that LaRose or others might reconsider running: “I think the voters will realize that those people have very important, consequential jobs to do that they in some cases just got elected to do.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chair Liz Walters said LaRose isn’t qualified to be U.S. Senator.

“He’s made a series of errors this summer on the special election like sending the wrong ballot language to county boards of elections. So, I think it leaves a lot of Ohioans wondering why on Earth we should give him a new job when he can’t do the job he’s got,” Walters said.

One big question now is who will get the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. He endorsed LaRose last year when he was running for re-election. But Moreno has said he got out of the Republican primary for U.S. Senate last year after meeting with Trump. Vance, who won the primary after he was endorsed by Trump, announced earlier this year he was backing Moreno.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.
Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.