Meet the Ohio Senate candidate who likes white nationalists and hates gay people

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Josh Mandel is back.

Three years after dropping out of his last Senate race, former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel said Wednesday that he will seek the Republican nomination to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) next year. Now framing himself as a loyal Donald Trump acolyte, he brings to the race a long history of bigotry and defending extremists.

In his announcement message, Mandel claimed that he was "motivated" to run by watching the "sham and unconstitutional impeachment" of Trump this week. He presented himself as someone who would fight for the defeated Trump's "America First Agenda" and "pulverize the Uniparty – that cabal of Democrats and Republicans who sound the same, stand for nothing and are more interested in cocktail party invites than defending the Constitution."

Mandel served as Ohio's state treasurer from 2011 to 2019. He was the GOP nominee in 2012 against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), losing 50.3% to 45.1% — well below the 48.2% of the vote Mitt Romney garnered on the same day in his unsuccessful challenge to President Barack Obama. He announced a 2018 rematch bid but quit the race, citing family medical issues.

Like Trump, Mandel has a record of standing with bigots.

In 2017, he attacked the Anti-Defamation League for including white nationalist-linked commentators Jack Posobiec and Mike Cernovich in a report on hateful extremists.

"Sad to see @ADL_National become a partisan witchhunt group targeting people for political beliefs. I stand with @Cernovich & @JackPosobiec," he said in a since-deleted tweet.

Days after Indiana Republican nominee Richard Mourdock infamously claimed in October 2012 Senate debate that pregnancies resulting from rape were a "gift from God," Mandel praised him, saying, "He's a gentleman. He's a class act. He's a thoughtful guy. He'll make a great United States senator."

In 2011, he refused to divest a campaign contribution from a Nazi reenactor. His campaign dismissed calls to return or donate the money as a "manufactured nonissue."

Mandel also had a rabidly anti-LGBTQ record of his own, opposing even domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples, supporting the right of employers to fire someone just for being gay, fighting to bar gay Americans from serving openly in the military, and vowing to "never, ever back down" from the fight against marriage equality — even after his wife's cousin legally married another woman in Massachusetts.

His record on other issues has also been extreme.

He backed a 2011 Ohio law that would have prohibited collective bargaining for public employees. As law enforcement, educators, and firefighters mounted a successful referendum campaign to overturn the law, Mandel opposed their efforts, claiming the anti-worker measure was really "about respecting police, and firefighters, and teachers." Voters repealed the anti-union law by a 61.6 to 38.4 margin.

In a 2012 interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Mandel rejected climate science, falsely saying research on global warming "is inconclusive and riddled with fraud.”

He also dishonestly claimed that year that the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, was a "government takeover of health care." He vowed to back efforts to repeal the law, which has since enabled hundreds of thousands of Ohioans to get health insurance coverage.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.