ORLANDO, Florida — Josh Mandel, Republican candidate for Senate in Ohio, is comparing the governor of his state, Republican Mike DeWine, to a petty authoritarian bureaucrat over his handling of the coronavirus.
DeWine, who is up for reelection in 2022, has used economic lockdowns and gathering restrictions over the past year to mitigate the health risks posed by the deadly pandemic. In a Friday morning speech to attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mandel said the governor arbitrarily and unnecessarily put people out of work and destroyed small businesses on the recommendation of Democrats and “tinkering technocrats.”
“Squishy Republican governors, like my governor, DeWine,” Mandel said, have been no different than Democratic governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo and California’s Gavin Newsom. Mandel called DeWine a “RINO” — a Republican In Name Only, eliciting cheers from CPAC audience.
“Let me tell you what happened in the state of Ohio,” Mandel continued. “Unfortunately, Republican governor, RINO governor DeWine, decided that he was going to lead the charge in shutting down Ohio before any state in the nation. And he had this lady named Amy Acton. She was sort of the Fauci of Ohio — who the media trotted out as a hero, who DeWine trotted out as a hero, who the Left trotted out as a hero, who the Republican establishment trotted out as a hero. And like in so many of your states, she was dead wrong.”
Anthony Fauci has been the top medical adviser to former President Donald Trump and President Biden throughout the pandemic. He has been a proponent of wearing masks and shuttering businesses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, policies Republicans have increasingly viewed with suspicion. Acton, an Ohio health official until last year, is exploring a run for the Democratic nomination for Senate in 2022.
Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced last month that he would not seek reelection. Mandel, 43, quickly entered the GOP primary to succeed him. In 2012, Mandel, then state treasurer, lost a bid for Senate to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. But Ohio has turned more Republican since then, and that could position Mandel to advance to Capitol Hill if he can win the GOP nomination.
The contest is expected to be crowded and the endorsement of former President Donald Trump looms large. In 2016, Mandel, a favorite of grassroots conservatives in Ohio and around the country, endorsed Trump for the Republican nomination over then-Gov. John Kasich. However, Jane Timken, former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party and a major Trump ally in the state, also is running for Senate.
Meanwhile, Trump has said that he would like to support a primary challenger to DeWine because the governor acknowledged that Biden defeated him in the 2020 election.