CLEVELAND — Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, whose abrupt departure from the U.S. Senate race earlier this year shocked Ohio politicos, has filed paperwork keeping the door open for a future political comeback.
Mr. Mandel, a Republican, in February filed federal campaign finance paperwork establishing a committee to run for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, currently occupied by Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge. And on May 14, he filed a lengthy financial disclosure document with the U.S. House of Representative’s clerk’s office, a requirement for any U.S. House candidate.
In the second filing, Mr. Mandel wrote he plans to run in 2020 for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, which contains his Beachwood home. The 36-page document otherwise discloses millions of dollars in assets, including stocks and real estate holdings. Mr. Mandel is paid $109,961 as Ohio’s treasurer, but his wife, Illana, is a member of one of the Cleveland area’s richest families, which makes disclosing his personal finances complex.
Two Ohio Republicans with ties to Mr. Mandel said the paperwork is an avenue for Mr. Mandel to maintain an organized campaign committee, rather than a serious declaration that he’s running for the 11th District, which is Ohio’s most Democratic district. Closing his federal committee would require him to liquidate his campaign account, including refunding or giving away the more than $3.6 million in cash that’s left over from his Senate campaign.
But the move nonetheless keeps the door open for Mandel to run for federal office in the future. Notably, Mr. Mandel has not reported giving his leftover campaign funds to other Republican candidates, or to Republican Party organizations, in a tough election cycle for the GOP.
Mr. Mandel did not return a message seeking comment. A spokesman, Chris Berry, said in an email: “Right now Josh is focused on his family and on the treasurer’s office, not on political campaigns. He won’t be making any announcements about his future for a long time.”
Mr. Mandel has kept a low public profile since he dropped out of the Senate race in January, citing his wife’s health issues. The decision caught the GOP off-guard, and prompted a frantic search for a last-minute replacement. That process resulted in U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci dropping his struggling bid for Ohio governor less than two weeks later, with encouragement from President Donald Trump’s political operation, to run for the Senate instead. Mr. Renacci then won the May Republican primary, and now is challenging Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Mr. Mandel’s absence from the state’s political scene during a hotly contested election year has been a subject of curiosity among Ohio Republicans and Democrats alike, who have wondered what the future may hold for Mr. Mandel. Mr. Mandel, 40, has held political ambitions since he was young. He was 29 when he was first elected to the Ohio House in 2006. Four years later, he was elected state treasurer at age 33. In 2012, he lost to Mr. Brown. Mr. Mandel was re-elected as state treasurer in 2014, but in 2016 began gearing up for another challenge to Mr. Brown in 2018 before he eventually dropped out.
Taking Mr. Mandel’s filing at face value, if he were to run for Congress in 2020, his $3.6 million in cash would instantly allow him to fund a credible campaign. Mr. Mandel has only raised a net $2,950 since he dropped out of the Senate race, factoring in more than $943,000 in donor refunds his campaign has issued.
He’s spent $243,000 since dropping out of the Senate race, including $35,000 paid to a company owned by his campaign treasurer, $31,918 for legal fees and $26,000 in rent payments. Mr. Mandel also disclosed miscellaneous smaller expenses like rental cars and bank fees. It’s unclear which payments may be settling old Senate campaign debts, versus incurring new expenses.
While today’s 11th District would be unfriendly political ground for Mr. Mandel, there’s a chance that Ohio’s congressional lines could be redrawn by the 2020 elections — the American Civil Liberties Union has a pending federal lawsuit, filed on May 18, that asks a judge to throw out the current lines. Last month, a federal judge rejected a request from Republican officials to dismiss the lawsuit, a legal move which allows the case to continue. It’s scheduled for a March trial.
Otherwise, new Ohio congressional lines will go into effect for the 2022 election. Those district lines would be subject to a new constitutional amendment, approved by Ohio voters last May, that aims to make Ohio’s congressional districts more politically competitive and geographically compact.
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