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Sherrod Brown for U.S. Senate: endorsement editorial

October 10, 2018

Sherrod Brown for U.S. Senate: endorsement editorial

When it comes to political timing, Sherrod Brown seems to have been born under a lucky star. But he has buttressed that political good fortune with a tireless work ethic and astute political instincts, a tough combination to beat.

Brown, 65, of Cleveland, a Democrat, is seeking his third term in the U.S. Senate against Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, 59, of Wadsworth.

But Brown has been running for public office since he was a 22-year-old Yale College senior in 1974, seeking a seat in the Ohio House that he won that fall. Since then, he has run 17 times more and won 16 of those races, losing only to Robert Taft in a 1990 re-election bid for Ohio secretary of state. 

In 1992, Brown’s sights turned from Columbus to Washington, D.C., drawing a particularly weak Republican opponent to begin his congressional run in the late Margaret Mueller, who’d previously lost three times to Dennis Eckart. Re-elected six times to the House, Brown was pressured only once – when he withstood the 1994 Republican Revolution and a formidable opponent in popular Lorain County Prosecutor Gregory White.

In 2006, Brown took a run at the Senate, and, buoyed by the scandal-ridden statewide Republican bloodbath, defeated incumbent Mike DeWine. Timing was on his side again in his second Senate campaign in 2012, as he skirted the huge Republican midterm victories of 2010 and 2014, and rode along with President Barack Obama’s second victory to a comfortable win over the ethics-challenged Josh Mandel.

Now here he comes again, riding what most analysts expect to be a nationwide blue wave toward his almost-certain third term, helped in part by his opponent’s lackluster campaign.

Renacci is a successful businessman who was in his fourth term in Congress when he decided to run for governor this year. He says he switched targets to take on Brown after a personal appeal from President Donald Trump. Renacci says he still believes in finding practical solutions across party lines, but his decision to hitch his wagon to Trump has tarnished his image as an independent-minded pragmatist, and his campaign has floundered.

Renacci blames the financial mismatch between the two campaigns on the power of Brown’s incumbency, saying during his endorsement interview that he believes term limits are needed to get rid of “career politicians” like Brown -- although some might argue Renacci is no political newcomer.

There is no mystery as to why Brown, who is generally acknowledged as one of the most liberal members of the Senate, keeps on winning statewide elections in conservative-leaning Ohio: He constantly burnishes his rumpled Everyman image; he exudes concern for the little guy; and despite the fact that he has spent the last 24 years in Washington, D.C., he steadfastly maintains his connection to Ohio and support for its issues.

In the Senate, Brown maintains a good relationship and works well with the state’s other senator, Republican Rob Portman, particularly on issues regarding the Great Lakes. And his longtime advocacy for middle-class voters and factory workers is yielding new political benefits, with Brown’s criticism of trade deals like NAFTA finally finding a champion, ironically, in President Trump.

Brown also is the first Ohio senator in 40 years to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee, helping expand his base of support in Ohio. He now sits on the House-Senate conference committee on the Farm Bill, to reconcile the more bipartisan Senate version with the House version, with its cuts to food assistance programs, that passed with only Republican votes. 

Brown says that when considering legislation he always tries to enlist a Republican senator who will support it.

“It’s who you fight for and what you fight against,” he told our editorial board during his endorsement interview. “I don’t ever compromise on civil rights, I’ll never compromise on women’s rights. (But on other issues) you find a way to compromise.” 

Sherrod Brown has served Ohio well in his two terms in the Senate. Its voters should return him to Washington for a third.

Early in-person and absentee voting for the Nov. 6 election begins today. For more resources, consult the League of Women Voters’ voters’ guide. 

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Cleveland and Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth are competing for Brown’s U.S. Senate seat. The candidates were interviewed separately.  

Sherrod Brown was interviewed by the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer on Oct. 1, 2018 as part of its endorsement process. Listen to audio of this interview below:

Jim Renacci was interviewed by the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer on Oct. 5, 2018 as part of its endorsement process. Listen to audio of this interview below: 

About our editorials: Editorials express the view of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer -- the senior leadership and editorial-writing staff. As is traditional, editorials are unsigned and intended to be seen as the voice of the news organization.  

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