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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 Brown (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 Portman (Ohio), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tom Cotton (Ark.) and Patrick Toomey (Penn.).
Winning Brown's Senate seat will be a challenge for any Republican, even though President Trump 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.