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2024 Election

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown draws his first GOP challenger in key 2024 race

Matt Dolan, a state senator whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians, plans to launch another Senate campaign this week, according to a voicemail obtained by NBC News.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, right, speaks with reporters at a rally for Ohio gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley in Cincinnati, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaks with reporters in Cincinnati on Nov. 3.Jeff Dean / AP file

CLEVELAND — Matt Dolan, who lost a raucous Republican Senate primary in Ohio last year, plans to run again in 2024, this time seeking to unseat longtime Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown.

Dolan will announce his candidacy this week, he told an Ohio GOP official in a voicemail Sunday, which the official shared with NBC News on the condition of anonymity.

A representative for Dolan declined to comment Monday.

Brown has said he intends to seek a fourth term next year. Dolan, a state senator whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians, would most likely be the first candidate on the GOP side to officially declare. Other Republicans closely looking at the race include Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Bernie Moreno, a businessman who briefly was a Senate candidate in 2022. 

Dolan has also been the most aggressive in setting himself up for 2024. 

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 28: Ohio State Senator Matt Dolan, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio, speaks with a local television station after voting early in the May 3 Primary Election at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on April 28, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. Last week, Former President Donald Trump announced his endorsement of J.D. Vance in the Ohio Republican Senate primary. Other challengers in the Republican Senate primary field include Josh Mandel, Mike Gibbons, Jane Timken, Matt Dolan and Mark Pukita.
Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, speaks in Cleveland on April 28.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

As a critic of former President Donald Trump and those who embraced his debunked election conspiracy theories, Dolan struggled to connect with the right-wing base during last year’s race, even as he expressed support for Trump's policies and wouldn't rule out backing him in 2024. But with a heavily self-funded war chest, he finished a competitive third in the primary — behind eventual winner J.D. Vance and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel — after a surge in the polls over the closing days. And after Trump was blamed for the GOP’s disappointing results outside Ohio in the November midterms, Dolan quickly asserted himself as a post-Trump candidate to take on Brown next year.

“What we witnessed nationally should convince us the country is ready for substantive candidates, not personalities and election deniers,” Dolan wrote to county GOP chairs in Ohio less than a week after the election in an email that indicated he was weighing another run. 

In his voicemail Sunday, Dolan acknowledged that others are likely to run in 2024 and expressed interest in earning the official’s support in what could be another crowded primary. Dolan told the official that the race should be about beating Brown and that he felt he was the candidate best positioned to do so.

Brown’s seat — along with those held by Democrats Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia and an open seat in Michigan, where Democrat Debbie Stabenow is retiring — will be among the GOP’s top pickup opportunities next year. Republican leaders in Ohio are bracing for another brutal primary like the one that elevated Vance, a political novice best known for his bestselling memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy.” Vance defeated Democrat Tim Ryan by a comfortable margin with help from national GOP groups that spent tens of millions of dollars on TV ads.

Other Republicans who are mentioned as possible candidates include U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson and Mark Kvamme, a venture capitalist with close ties to former Gov. John Kasich.