Republican Josh Mandel unexpectedly dropped out of the Ohio Senate race Friday, citing family health issues.
“We recently learned that my wife has a health issue that will require my time, attention and presence. In other words, I need to be there,” Mandel said in a statement.
“Understanding and dealing with these issues is more important than any campaign,” Mandel continued. He said he will fill out the remainder of his term as state Treasurer.
Mandel was making a second run against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who defeated Mandel by 6 points in 2012.
Mandel's departure shakes up a race that was widely expected to be a rematch between the two. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Lean Democratic. Brown ended the third quarter with $8.2 million in the bank.
Brown's campaign put out a statement shortly after Mandel's announcement.
"At this time, we wish Josh, Ilana and their family the best of health. We hope for Ilana's full and speedy recovery," campaign manager Justin Barasky said.
Mandel announced his 2018 campaign over a year ago, in December 2016, and started the race with a large coffer. He ended the third quarter of 2017 with $4 million in the bank. But he had run into criticism for using his state office to advance his Senate campaign and was sometimes prone to gaffes.
Mandel didn't have the GOP field to himself. Investment banker Mike Gibbons got into the race in June, and although he's a self-funder, hasn't done much to make himself stand out in the race, a national GOP strategist said. Gibbons ended the third quarter with $638,000. By the end of the third quarter, he'd loaned his campaign about $570,000.
Early on in his campaign, Gibbons ran into trouble with conservative groups when he described himself as personally supportive of abortion rights. He later said he opposes abortion.
With Mandel out, other Republicans, including those currently running for governor, will likely take a look at the race. The filing deadline for Senate is Feb. 7 and the primary is May 8.
Ohio Rep. James B. Renacci, who currently represents the 16th District, would be considered a top challenger, according to the GOP strategist. He announced his gubernatorial campaign last March. A spokesman confirmed Friday evening Renacci is receiving calls from conservative leaders urging him to run for the Senate.
Renacci has his own money he could invest in the race and represents a district near Cleveland, so he already has name recognition in one of the state's largest media markets. Renacci is also close to President Donald Trump and state GOP chairwoman Jane Timken. He had $286,000 in his federal campaign account at the end of the third quarter.
Other contenders could include Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who's running for lieutenant governor, and current Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who's running for governor but is behind in fundraising. 14th District Rep. David Joyce, who has his own money, could take a look at the race, suggested the GOP strategist. So could Timken, who was elected the first female chair of the state party last year.
Rep. Pat Tiberi, who's leaving the House later this month to begin a job with the Ohio Business Roundtable, passed on the Senate race last year. His spokesman told Cleveland.com Friday that he's not changing his mind about the Senate race now that Mandel's out. At the end of the third quarter, Tiberi still had $6.6 million in his campaign account.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is not interested, according to strategist John Weaver, who quickly took to Twitter Friday afternoon to quell questions about his intentions.