Aaron Doster/AP Photo
Jane Timken claims she’s the Trumpiest candidate in Ohio
In JI interview, the Ohio Senate hopeful says she’ll advance America First agenda
As Ohio’s open-seat Senate race takes shape, speculation is swirling around which Republican will be anointed with an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, who still maintains outsized influence in the party. The two most high-profile Republicans in the primary contest right now — Jane Timken, a former GOP state party chair, and Josh Mandel, a former state treasurer — are locked in a frenzied game of one-upmanship to earn Trump’s favor as both candidates profess their support for the apparent GOP kingmaker.
That dynamic was on full display on Wednesday night at the former president’s golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla., where Timken and Mandel — along with tech executive Bernie Moreno and businessman Mike Gibbons, who are both eyeing the seat — appeared before Trump for a tense private meeting in which the candidates all jockeyed for his support, as first reported by Politico’s Alex Isenstadt.
Mandel, citing favorable polling from the conservative Club for Growth, which has endorsed him, claimed to be “crushing” his main opponent, while Timken boasted of her commitment to Trump during her time as party chair — a position she recently left to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).
In an interview with Jewish Insider on Thursday afternoon, Timken, 54, confirmed that she had met with Trump in Florida, but declined to reveal the exact contours of their discussion. “I always like to keep my conversations with President Trump private,” she said. “We had a very good discussion, and I laid out how I have a broad spectrum of support and endorsements across the state.”
Still, there is one possible point of tension between Timken and Trump — Rep. Anthony Gonzalez’s (R-OH) decision to vote in favor of impeachment, which made him one of just 10 Republicans in Congress to go against the former president. Before announcing her Senate bid in mid-February, Timken said the Ohio congressman, in whose district she resides, had a “rational reason” for his vote, describing him as an “effective legislator” and “a very good person.” But she soon reversed course, and now calls for Gonzalez to resign as he faces a primary challenge from former Trump aide Max Miller.
Though Politico reports that Trump brought up the flip-flop in the meeting on Wednesday, Timken said it wasn’t an issue, emphasizing that she had always disagreed with Gonzalez’s vote.
But even the appearance of any bad blood could give Mandel — who has channeled the former president’s charged rhetoric more than any candidate in the race — an opening to attack his opponent as insufficiently pro-Trump. Scott Guthrie, Mandel’s campaign manager, suggested as much in an email to JI casting Mandel as “the only unabashedly pro-Trump candidate in this race.”
“He was the first statewide official in Ohio to endorse President Trump, and will continue to fight for the America First agenda in the U.S. Senate,” Guthrie said. “While other candidates said they ‘didn’t know’ how they would vote on impeaching President Trump, Josh Mandel stood strongly and vocally against the sham and unconstitutional impeachment.”
Timken offered a similar assessment of her own pro-Trump credentials. “I’m the only person in this race who, for the last four years, has been advancing the America First agenda and championing President Trump,” she declared.
With more Republicans mulling bids — including Hillbilly Elegy author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance as well as Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Bill Johnson (R-OH) — the primary is likely to become even more combative as each candidate vies for the coveted seat. But Timken believes she is well-poised for victory thanks to her four years traveling the state as Ohio’s GOP state chair.
“I’ve been out there,” she said. “The other candidates in this race have not.”
The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jewish Insider: Why did you jump into this race?
Jane Timken: I think of myself as a conservative disrupter. Four years ago, with the support and endorsement of President Trump, I stood up and ran for chairman of the Ohio Republican Party against a [former Ohio Gov. John] Kasich-handpicked chairman that had turned the party into a mess — and I became chairman, cleaned up the party, united Republicans and turned it into a well-oiled machine that delivered results up and down the ballot in 2018 and 2020. But more to the point, I’ve been traveling this state for the last four years, putting 150,000 miles-plus on my two cars, talking to voters, talking to our communities, talking to business owners big and small. I understand the needs of Ohioans and what policies in Washington have worked for them and those that have not.
JI: Both you and Josh Mandel have expressed your strong loyalty to Trump in this race. Are you expecting Trump to make an endorsement, and if so, do you think you’ll get it?
Timken: Well, let me be clear, I’m the only person in this race who, for the last four years, has been advancing the America First agenda and championing President Trump. I’m the one that delivered Ohio for over eight points for him. I would welcome his endorsement, I have been there for him, and I believe that President Trump’s endorsement would make a difference. But I will prove myself to be the best candidate, and I plan on winning this race.
JI: What are your thoughts on the dynamic within the GOP right now? After the Capitol riot, there were some Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, including Anthony Gonzalez, while others continue to support him. How are you navigating this tension?
Timken: First of all, I want to make it very clear, I did disagree with Anthony Gonzalez’s vote and have said that repeatedly. The second impeachment was unconstitutional and a sham, and I have called out Anthony Gonzalez on that issue, so I want to make that very clear. But I have united Republicans in Ohio for the last four years to deliver strong results — and quite frankly, as I travel the state, I see real enthusiasm in the Republican Party very similar to 2010. People want to become more engaged, they want to run for school board, they want to run for township trustee. They are clearly upset with what’s happened with the Biden administration and the Democrats’ disastrous policies. They’re very concerned about the border, they’re very concerned about high taxes and high gas prices. They want their schools open and they want their businesses open.
JI: On Gonzalez, you originally said he had a “rational reason” for his vote, but have since called for him to resign. Do you feel as if that might affect how voters view you in this election?
Timken: As I said, let me be very clear, I’ve always been very firm that I disagreed with his vote, and I have made that statement repeatedly. Anthony Gonzalez does not represent the wishes of his constituents who were against impeachment. And I will be the senator that will always be fighting for Ohioans to make sure their prosperity and security is number one. That’s the kind of senator I will be in the U.S. Senate, always looking out for Ohioans — their families, their freedoms.
JI: There’s a new Politico article that was published, probably 20 minutes ago, right before this call, that details a trip you and the other candidates in Ohio made to Trump’s golf club in West Palm Beach. Can you talk about that and what the experience of visiting Trump was like?
Timken: I always like to keep my conversations with President Trump private. We had a very good discussion, and I laid out how I have a broad spectrum of support and endorsements across the state, from the grassroots community and the donor community, and my campaign is going incredibly well.
JI: The Politico piece does mention that Trump, quote, at one point reminded you that you did initially defend Gonzalez. Is that a point of tension between you and Trump?
Timken: It is not. He knows exactly my statements about Anthony Gonzalez, that I said that I disagreed with Anthony Gonzalez’s vote.
JI: The piece also includes some details about Josh Mandel claiming he is “crushing” you in the polls. The Club for Growth, which is backing him, released a survey in early March putting Mandel in first place with 38% among likely Republican primary voters in Ohio — 32 points ahead of you. What do you make of that?
Timken: All I know is I have been incredibly overwhelmed with support across the state of Ohio. People trust my leadership, they know that I deliver results, and they know that’s exactly what I will do in the United States Senate.
JI: This is your first statewide bid. What’s your approach?
Timken: I’ve spent the last four years traveling the state. I’ve been out there. The other candidates in this race have not; I’ve been there talking to voters repeatedly for the last four years. So I have a unique understanding of the needs of the Ohio business leadership and their communities and their families. They know me. I’ve shown up. You have to win in Ohio. You have to show up and earn their support.
JI: Have you done any outreach to the Jewish community in Ohio, and if so, what do you see as some of their concerns in this race from a local as well as a national level?
Timken: I’ve had several conversations with folks in the Jewish community. They’re very concerned about Iran. They’re very concerned about the policies from the Biden administration. They want to make sure that Israel is protected as our number one ally in the Middle East. And there’s major issues with the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement that I find highly antisemitic. We need to stand up for our ally, Israel, and, I’m very concerned about the Biden’s administration’s approach to Iran. We cannot have Iran develop nuclear capabilities. It is a threat to Israel, our ally, and is a threat to the United States’s security.
JI: We’ve seen instances of antisemitism increase in recent years. Is there anything you feel you can do as a senator to make sure that antisemitic violence doesn’t happen again or that hate crimes go down or antisemitic rhetoric goes away?
Timken: We really need to push back on the BDS movement. That is a leftist policy that is antisemitic, and I see it on college campuses, I see it in their dialogue and rhetoric, and I will stand up and push back against that because I think it’s leading to some real disastrous effects.
JI: By pushing back, do you mean through legislation or by using the bully pulpit?
Timken: Well, I think there’s some things we can do in terms of college campuses, how these movements are being pushed on to college campuses, that I’d like to get some legislation passed to push back on that.
JI: Do you think the BDS movement has a major presence on college campuses in Ohio?
Timken: I’ve seen it. I was Kent State board chair, and I saw the push on the movement on campus.
JI: And that concerned you?
Timken: Very much so.
JI: Have you yourself been to Israel, and if not, would you plan to go if you’re elected?
Timken: I would absolutely plan to go; I have always wanted to go to Israel. It is one of the most sacred, important places on this Earth.
JI: What are your thoughts on Trump’s foreign policy approach in the Middle East in particular? He was accused of alienating America’s allies around the world, but many Democrats seem to regard the Abraham Accords normalizing relations between Israel and a number of Arab nations as sort of a net positive for the region.
Timken: I absolutely applaud President Trump’s approach to our foreign policy in the Middle East. I was very proud when he moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as had been promised by several presidents before. And the Abraham Accords have been a significant development in the Middle East. Look, it’s peace through strength. He has stood up for Israel, and I will always do that as the next United States senator. We need to make sure that Israel is protected.
JI: There’s an interview from 2017 in which you mention that you got more engaged in politics because of Obamacare passing. What motivates you today? Is Obamacare still a factor?
Timken: Yes. Look, I think one of the reasons why I objected to Obamacare was because it was a government takeover of our healthcare in our lives. I don’t believe in government intrusion. I think government takeover of our healthcare is an inefficient way to deliver good healthcare results for the American people. And you start to see this overreach in the disastrous policies of the Democrats. Federal control is not what this country is about. Our freedoms and our constitutional rights are something that I hold sacred and something I will always fight for.
JI: You’ve been critical of President Biden. But are there any areas that you feel like you might be able to work with him in a bipartisan manner?
Timken: President Biden talked about unity and working in a bipartisan manner, and I’ve yet to see that. Look, I will work to solve problems for the American people and Ohioans, but I have yet to see policies from the Biden administration that have operated in a manner that would allow for bipartisanship.
JI: This may be a controversial question, but are there any Democrats currently in the Senate that you admire?
Timken: I can’t name one right now.
JI: If you’re elected, who do you imagine allying with in the Senate?
Timken: There’s several. I think of [Iowa] Sen. Joni Ernst as someone who’s a very effective leader. I think of Tom Cotton [of Arkansas] as a very effective leader in the U.S. Senate. I will be the Jane Timken senator — someone who solves problems, gets things done and passes legislation for the betterment of Ohio and their families and their freedoms.
JI: Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican congresswoman from Georgia, has become a controversial figure thanks in part to her belief in QAnon. What do you make of her as well as the QAnon conspiracy theory?
Timken: Look, I denounce QAnon. I don’t agree with them. But, you know, Marjorie Taylor Greene was elected duly, and she has the right to voice her opinions and represent her constituents. All I will tell you is I plan on being a very effective leader, someone who solves problems and gets things done for Ohioans.
JI: If you were in the Senate on January 6, the day of the Capitol riot, would you have voted against certifying the Electoral College vote?
Timken: To me, there was widespread fraud in 2020’s election, and I would have voted against certifying because I wanted to have a full airing of what happened in November of 2020. We never had the opportunity to explore some of the disastrous policies. Election integrity is very important to me, and we never had the opportunity to actually have full hearings of what happened in a lot of these states. We did it right here in Ohio, where it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat. But I think, going forward, this country needs to have faith in our elections, and what I see with the Democrats, with their For the People Act, which I call For the Democrats Act, is the exact opposite of allowing for Americans to have faith in their elections. We cannot have policies that allow for fraud and mailing out massive amounts of ballots with no voter verification and taking taxpayer dollars and putting it into campaign coffers. It’s not American.
JI: What was your reaction to the Capitol riot?
Timken: Let me be very clear, those people who stormed the Capitol and perpetrated violence should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
JI: But you don’t think Trump was responsible for inciting the riot?
Timken: No, I do not.
JI: Aside from the Florida meeting, have you spoken with Trump about your campaign on any other occasions?
Timken: I have.
JI: And are you interested in disclosing any of the details?
JI: OK. What’s your game plan going into this race? There’s some time until 2022, but at the moment, it looks like you and Josh Mandel will be sort of jockeying for a potential endorsement from Trump. How do you think this will play out, and what’s your campaign strategy for appealing to voters who may still be very much supportive of Trump?
Timken: Those voters know me. They know how hard I’ve worked for President Trump and how much I’ve advanced the America First agenda. I would welcome President Trump’s endorsement, but I will be out there every day talking to voters with my message that I will be the one standing up for Ohio families, Ohio jobs and Ohio workers and our business community. That’s the message.
JI: Can you describe your fundraising strategy in this race? Will you be self-funding?
Timken: This race is very important to me because I care about our country and I care about Ohio. I will invest in this race, but I have been very encouraged by the broad spectrum of donor support across the state of Ohio. It’s been incredible.
JI: Do you think it’ll be a competitive general election?
Timken: Who knows who the Democrats are going to nominate. I plan on winning the general election. I think that Ohio has rewarded Republicans because Republican policies have been good for them.