COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Haslam and Dolan families compete in Cleveland for sports fans’ attention, ticket money and public tax dollars for their organizations’ respective stadiums. But they’re on the same team when it comes to Ohio’s Republican U.S. Senate primary next March.
Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam announced to Republican donors this week that they’re backing Matt Dolan, a state senator whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians, in the GOP Senate primary. The Haslams are prolific Republican political donors, although they were neutral in the 2022 Republican Senate primary — a contest in which Dolan finished third —and didn’t give in that race until after now-Sen. JD Vance emerged victorious.
But this year, the Haslams say they’re getting off the sidelines and backing Dolan. They suggested in a letter that the other major candidates, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno, have tacked too far to the right in their quest for GOP base voters, making themselves unelectable next November, when the GOP nominee will face longtime Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.
“Instead of catering to the extreme, Matt Dolan’s campaign has been focused on strengthening Ohio and renewing American strength,” the Haslams said in the letter. “Where others have sacrificed their electability by catering to conspiracies, Matt has maintained his focus on solutions to reduce inflation, increase border security, enhance U.S. competition with China and protect Ohio families and businesses.”
The Haslams said they are hosting a fundraiser for Dolan at their home on Sept. 27.
Politico was the first to report the letter’s existence. Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer independently obtained a copy.
Unlike LaRose and Moreno, Dolan is not seeking ex-President Donald Trump’s endorsement. And while he’s generally avoided openly criticizing the former president, he’s also not making direct appeals to Trump’s most ardent supporters. Dolan took a similar approach last year and placed third, getting 23% of the vote and exceeding expectations.
Moreno, meanwhile, is considered most likely to get Trump’s endorsement while LaRose and his team meanwhile are trying to keep Trump at least neutral in the race. The general competition for Trump’s support is similar to the dynamic ahead of the GOP primary last May, when Vance vaulted in the polls and won the primary following a late endorsement from Trump.
Despite his 2020 election loss, and his mounting legal woes, Trump remains heavily influential with Republican primary voters, and is favored to win the GOP primary for president next year in a likely contest against Democratic President Joe Biden.
Ohio’s November Senate election, meanwhile, is expected to be one of the most hotly contested political races in the country. Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in the Senate, while Brown is one of three Democratic senators who represents a state that Trump won in 2020.[4:05 PM] Andrew Tobias
The Haslams are prolific contributors to campaigns for state Republicans, and also gave $50,000 to the campaign for State Issue 1, the failed proposal to make it harder to amend the Ohio Constitution. In addition, they’ve previously given to the state campaigns for both Dolan and LaRose.