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Rob Portman's Senate seat attracts two Trump-aligned candidates so far

In the 2022 race to fill Ohio GOP Senator Rob Portman's seat, there are so far two major entrants who are rushing to claim the Trump mantle. 

"As your senator, I will advance the Trump agenda without fear or hesitation," former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken vowed in a campaign video Thursday, when she announced her bid for the retiring senator's seat.

Timken, the latest Republican to enter the race, faces a primary battle against former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who announced his candidacy earlier this month.

In February, she resigned as party chair, and in her video highlighted her leadership of the Ohio GOP, boasting that she had rid the party of its moderate conservatives, "cleaned house of the [John] Kasich establishment" — and "delivered a second decisive win in Ohio for President Trump."

Mandel, who has run for Senate twice before, prominently featured Mr. Trump in his campaign announcement. 

"Watching this sham and unconstitutional impeachment has made my blood boil and motivated me to run for U.S. Senate," Mandel said in a statement announcing his candidacy. Mandel was the first statewide elected official in Ohio to endorse Mr. Trump in 2016, and he raised more than $500,000 for Mr. Trump's reelection bid. 

"Josh Mandel is the only unabashedly pro-Trump candidate in this race," Mandel's campaign manager Scott Guthrie said in a statement. "While other candidates said they 'didn't know' how they would vote on impeaching President Trump, Josh Mandel stood strongly and vocally against the sham and unconstitutional impeachment." 

The statement was a swipe at Timken, who told cleveland.com earlier this month, "I don't know if I would have voted the way (Ohio Congressman Anthony Gonzalez) did [on impeaching Trump]." Gonzalez was one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump. 

Ohio has shifted to the right over the past several election cycles. President Trump won the state by 8 points in November and Republicans control nearly all of the statewide offices. 

Portman was expected to face a relatively easy path to re-election. After he announced his retirement, Cook Political Report edged the race slightly towards Democrats, but still rates Ohio as "lean Republican." Other more moderate candidates, such as Congressman Steve Stivers, have been mentioned as possible GOP contenders. 

Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, who is considering a run for the Senate seat, sent a fundraising email after Timken's announcement, attacking her as "Trump's hand-picked Ohio Republican Party Chair." Another potential Democratic candidate is Dr. Amy Acton, Ohio's former health director, who resigned from The Columbus Foundation recently "in order to carefully consider how I can best be of service at this crucial time."

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