COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel says that as a U.S. senator he would fight any attempts by the Republican establishment to focus on social issues over jobs and the economy.
The 34-year-old candidate said during an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that he believes all elected leaders should be focused on "jobs, jobs, jobs."
"Whether someone is running for president of the United States, U.S. senator, state representative or dog catcher, the focus of elected leaders today should be on job creation and sustainable economic growth," he said.
Dubbed an "absentee treasurer" by his critics, Mandel said he's improved the financial performance of Ohio's treasury while trimming its budget. He's also missed every meeting of the powerful Board of Deposit that he chairs.
Mandel is favored to win a six-way GOP primary Tuesday whose winner will face Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in November. He plans to make his Senate bid official Thursday at the Akron Press Club, after raising some $4 million in contributions.
"Josh Mandel refuses to even focus on doing his own job and is the last person who can be trusted to focus on bringing jobs back to Ohio," said Justin Barasky, Brown's campaign spokesman.
Mandel countered that Brown was the one falling down on the job.
"Between Sherrod Brown and me, there's only one person who has failed to do his job," Mandel said. "It's been over 1,000 days since the U.S. Senate has passed a budget. That's one of Sherrod Brown's duties and he has not done his duty."
Mandel said he's running because Ohioans of all political persuasions have told him they want to see a "Washington outsider with fresh ideas" in the Capitol.
He said he has the "backbone" to challenge leaders of both parties – pointing to times as a Lyndhurst city councilman and state representative when he bucked the GOP and went his own way.
"My backbone comes from two places: my grandparents and the Marine Corps," he said, referencing his two tours in Iraq and relatives including a grandfather who survived the Holocaust.
Mandel said he opposes abortion rights, gun control and gay marriage. But he said social issues shouldn't be the country's priority right now.
"We can deal with all that next year, or in the future," he said. "As a U.S. senator I will stand up to the heads and the most powerful Republicans in the country and tell them that their focus needs to be on jobs and the economy first and foremost."
Democrats have painted Mandel as "shoulder to shoulder with the far-right wing of his party." They note his endorsement by the Senate Conservatives Fund, which calls Mandel a "full-spectrum conservative" who believes in limited government, family values, and a growth-limiting balanced budget amendment at the federal level.