Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race

Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) is dropping his Senate bid, citing his wife's health issues. 
 
Mandel announced his decision to leave the race for the seat held by Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDark money group targets Brown over previous domestic violence claim Biz groups fracture after Dodd-Frank rollback Five biggest surprises in midterm fight MORE (D-Ohio) in a letter to supporters on Friday
 
"I am ending my campaign for US Senate in order to be there for my wife and our three children. This was a difficult decision for us, but it’s the right one," Mandel wrote. 
 
"Understanding and dealing with this health issue is more important to me than any political campaign."
 
Mandel went on to say that he will serve out his term as treasurer, which ends in 2018. 
 
Justin Barasky, Brown's campaign manager, issued a brief statement on Mandel's departure from the race. 

"At this time, we wish Josh, Ilana and their family the best of health. We hope for Ilana's full and speedy recovery," Barasky said.
 
The Ohio Republican had been the top candidate in the race to take on Brown — he was the party's nominee in the 2012 Senate race against Brown, losing by about 6 points that year. 
 
In his bid for a rematch, Mandel led Republican businessman Mike Gibbons both in fundraising and at the polls. He also won key endorsements from Republican Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate passes bipartisan bill to curb opioid crisis Overnight Health Care: Opioid legislation passes overwhelmingly | DOJ backs Cigna-Express Scripts merger | Senate passes ban on pharmacy gag clauses This week: Allegations inject uncertainty into Kavanaugh nomination MORE (Ohio), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioNYT says it was unfair on Haley curtain story Rubio defends Haley over curtains story: Example of media pushing bias House lawmakers urge top intel official to probe national security threat of doctored videos MORE (Fla.), Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP senators condemn 'vulgar' messages directed at Collins over Kavanaugh GOP turns its fire on Google Overnight Defense: Trump denies report he's looking at Mattis replacements | Inhofe officially gets Armed Services gavel | Trump revives shutdown threat MORE (Ark.) and Patrick ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (Penn.). 
 
Winning Brown's Senate seat will be a challenge for any Republican, even though President TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE carried the state by 8 points in 2016. Brown is a prolific fundraiser and a mainstay in Ohio politics after a long career as a state legislator and two terms as Ohio secretary of state. 
 
Even so, Mandel narrowly led Brown in a May poll released by Gravis Marketing. In contrast, Brown led Mandel by 19 percent in a June Luntz Global survey. 
 
Mandel's departure leaves Gibbons as the top candidate in the race. Gibbons had been cobbling together a slew of local endorsements of his own as he sought to frame himself as the outsider choice for GOP primary voters. 
 
Gibbons had $640,000 in the bank through September, after loaning his campaign about $570,000. His campaign's fundraising report through the end of 2017 will be due at the end of January.
 
Best-selling author J.D. Vance, the author of "Hillbilly Elegy," previously ruled out a bid for Senate despite urging from some Republicans. A spokesperson for Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) told Buzzfeed that he would not consider the race.
 
It's also possible that one of the candidates in the state's crowded gubernatorial primary decides to run for Senate instead. With state attorney general Mike DeWine seen as the leader in that race, Rep. Jim Rennacci (R-Ohio) or Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R-Ohio) could consider abandoning their gubernatorial bids for a chance at the Senate seat. 
 
A Taylor spokesperson told National Journal that she would "certainly" consider a Senate bid.