RUSSELL — Six Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate spoke at the Primary 2022 Preview at The Club at Hillbrook on Sunday, hosted by the Western Reserve Women’s Republican Club. About 200 guests gathered to hear from Bernie Moreno, Jane Timken, J.D. Vance, Mike Gibbons, Neil Patel and Mark Pukita.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, announced that he will not seek re-election in 2022. Candidates spoke on a variety of issues, including an America First agenda, protecting Constitutional rights, holding China accountable for the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring that all citizens can achieve the American dream.

Cuyahoga County Councilman Jack Schron, a Moreland Hills resident, moderated the forum. Other elected officials were present, including U.S. Rep. David Joyce, R-Bainbridge, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy, Chagrin Falls Councilwoman Nancy Rogoff, Russell Township Trustee Kristina Port and Chagrin Falls Township Trustees Tom Florkiewicz and John Finley. Also present were Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz, Geauga County Commissioner James Dvorak, Chester Township Trustee Ken Radtke, and Judge Eugene Lucci of Lake County Common Pleas Court.

“President Biden is the Obama administration 2.0 on steroids,” Rep. Joyce said on Sunday before the forum began. “Everybody that had bad ideas that President Obama would try to quell, President Biden brought back and is having them instill those. And we have to fight those.”

State Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, launched a statewide tour this summer as part of an exploratory committee to consider a run for U.S. Senate. It kicked off with a luncheon at the Lake County Republican Headquarters on Tuesday and will continue across Ohio in the coming weeks.

U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno kicked off the forum, noting his roots in Colombia and the consequences of socialism. He said that life in Colombia was good for wealthy people, including his family, but not for others. His mother moved their family to Florida so her children would not grow up to be entitled. Mr. Moreno, a luxury car dealer and chairman of the blockchain technology company Ownum, said that he is running because he sees the same socialist ideologies threatening democracy in the U.S.

“We will hit an inflection point and I promise you, we may never, ever be able to get this country back,” Mr. Moreno said. “Here’s the thing, my mom, when she packed us up in 1971, we had a country to go to. If we lose America, where are we going to go?”

Ms. Timken of Canton said that she will fight for the America First agenda. She served as the chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party from 2017 to 2021. Ms. Timken said that America needs to have energy independence. She will always stand with Israel and hold China accountable for their actions, such as their trade deals, she said. Ms. Timken said she will stand up for the right to life, Constitutional rights, and she will “back the blue” by supporting law enforcement. She compared her experience of playing rugby in college to politics.

“Rugby’s a tough sport. No pads, no helmets and lots of mud, just like politics,” Ms. Timken said. “But I’m a fighter, and I’m not the kind of person who can sit on the sidelines.”

Mr. Vance of Cincinnati founded a Silicon Valley investment firm before returning to Columbus to join a capital firm. One of his priorities is to reduce the power of “big tech,” such as how Google, Facebook and Twitter can censor social media posts. Mr. Vance did not support former President Donald Trump in his 2016 campaign, but said he changed his mind after he saw that elites do not truly care about the American people. He said the “economic plunder of the middle class” is damaging the country.

“They’re trying to make us ashamed of our own country,” Mr. Vance said of the Democrats. “They’re trying to teach us that the thing that we should be proud of is something that we should be ashamed of. And if they do that, they make us easier to control.”

Mr. Gibbons founded Brown, Gibbons, Lang and Company, a top middle market investment firm. He unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2018 and served as the Ohio finance co-chair for former President Trump’s Ohio campaign in 2016. Mr. Gibbons said that he will stand up to “cancel culture” and create jobs. He will work to secure the borders, he said, in addition to supporting the right to bear arms.

“I am not going to go to Washington and worry about reelection. I have plenty of friends here in Ohio, I don’t want any more in Washington. I’m not trying to go to get rich, I can’t be bought,” Mr. Gibbons said. “I am conservative without apology. I cannot ever vote against my constitutional conservatism and I won’t.”

Mr. Patel of Westerville immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1979. He unsuccessfully ran for a state Senate seat in District 19 in 2014 as a Democrat, but is now a conservative Republican. He has 30 years of business experience, including owning a hotel and serving as a financial advisor. Mr. Patel said he is pro-life, supports the right to bear arms and campaigned for former President Trump. Ohio’s citizens need a representative who will listen to everyone’s concerns, he said, while promoting ethical representation and assuring freedoms named in the Constitution.

“My slogan for my campaign is ‘freedom, faith and service.’ Sort of like ‘by the people, for the people, to the people.”

Mr. Pukita of Dublin founded Fast Switch Ltd. in 1996, an IT staffing and recruiting firm. It grew to have $100 million in revenue before he sold it in 2019. Mr. Pukita said his two grandsons and four grand nephews are driving him to run for Senate so they can achieve the American dream. He has a seven-point agenda referred to as “DISRUPT.” It says he will defend America from enemies; instill values in education; save personal liberty; restore morality and ethics; unite all in an America First vision; protect the government of, for and by the people; and transform the government culture of entitlement, waste and abuse.

“Business people need to go to Washington and take that place apart. I’m willing to do it,” he said. “I will tell you that I think I’m smart, I’m articulate, I’m loud and I don’t care about what anybody else thinks of me.”

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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