COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Wealthy Cleveland business owner Bernie Moreno has joined the race to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, becoming the second Republican candidate to challenge the three-term incumbent.
The 56-year-old auto dealer and technology executive filed his paperwork Monday. Moreno also ran last year for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat but later dropped out of the crowded GOP primary.
Brown, a staple of Ohio politics since the 1970s, is one of just three Democratic senators up for reelection next year in a state won by former President Donald Trump. Republicans are eyeing the seat as one of their top opportunities for a pickup in 2024.
Already challenging Brown is Republican state Sen. Matt Dolan, whose family owns baseball’s Cleveland Guardians. He also ran last year for the seat vacated by Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, but lost the GOP nomination to JD Vance, who went on to win the general election.
Trump’s sway played heavily in last year’s race to succeed Portman, following his two strong presidential showings in the GOP-dominated state. After consulting with the former president, Moreno left the crowded and vicious GOP primary to avoid splitting the pro-Trump candidate vote.
Moreno’s family immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia. He made his name around Cleveland as a luxury car dealer before turning his focus to his interest in blockchain — a ledger for recording cybercurrency transactions — and his related technology company.
Nearly 60% of Moreno’s campaign spending last year — about $3.8 million — came from personal funds, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign funding.
He was not always an ardent Trump supporter, having tweeted in the mid-2010s that listening to him “is like watching a car accident that makes you sick, but you can stop looking.”