Cleveland's Jewish GOP Boy Next Door

GOP's Josh Mandel Shoots for Upset in Ohio Senate Race

Fighter: Josh Mandel has deep roots in Cleveland’s Jewish community and served two tours of duty in Iraq. Will that be enough to win support in his race against Ohio incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown?
courtesy of josh mandel
Fighter: Josh Mandel has deep roots in Cleveland’s Jewish community and served two tours of duty in Iraq. Will that be enough to win support in his race against Ohio incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown?

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published May 15, 2012, issue of May 25, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Who gets your vote when a kid who grew up in a local synagogue runs for U.S. Senate against an incumbent you supported in the last election?

That’s the dilemma that Jewish Cleveland will face this November, when homegrown Jewish Republican Josh Mandel takes on incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown in one of the highest-profile Senate contests of the election cycle.

Josh Mandel
courtesy of josh mandel
Josh Mandel

Brown received 78% of the Jewish vote in 2006, when he was first elected to the Senate. But Mandel is hoping to pull away some of that support with a head-on attack on Brown’s pro-Israel bona fides.

The fireworks are making for uncomfortable tensions within Ohio’s tight-knit Jewish community, which has been broadly supportive of Brown throughout his decades-long political career as a mainstream liberal Democratic congressman, Ohio secretary of state, and member of the Ohio legislature.

Mandel has personal history on his side, even if his conservative politics and GOP label may turn off some Jewish voters. A former Marine now serving as Ohio’s state treasurer, both he and his wife are members of prominent Ohio Jewish families.

“You have someone who’s so identified with the Jewish community but has positions that may not be held by many in the Jewish community,” Cleveland Jewish News publisher Michael E. Bennett said of Mandel. “People aren’t sure how to deal with that, and they’re trying to figure it out.”

Ohio’s 150,000 Jews make up just 1% of the state’s population. But the relatively large, affluent and mostly Democratic Cleveland Jewish community has an outsized political influence, and its support is coveted by statewide candidates, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

Mandel’s roots in liberal Cleveland could help his Senate bid. One time-tested strategy for Republican statewide success in Ohio is to hold down Democratic margins of victory in Cleveland while running up the vote in the rest of the state.

“He has a Cleveland appeal, and as a Republican that’s an advantage in statewide politics,” said John M. Elliott, a professor of political science at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.

So far Mandel is running a close second to Brown in both polls and in fundraising. A polling average calculated by the political website RealClearPolitics has Brown ahead of Mandel by 8.5 percentage points, a relatively narrow lead for a well-known incumbent. Federal Election Commission records show that Mandel has raised $7 million to Brown’s $8 million.

The race has drawn national attention for two reasons: Ohio’s role as a key swing state in the presidential race and Brown’s perceived vulnerability as a first-term senator in an economically troubled region.

“I definitely think it’s winnable,” said Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which has made the Mandel race one of its top priorities this year.

Mandel grew up in a Cleveland family deeply enmeshed in the city’s Jewish community. His father, attorney Bruce Mandel, has served as chair of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Community Relations Committee. The family belonged to a Conservative synagogue and to the Cleveland JCC, where Josh became the fourth generation of Mandels to play on the softball team.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.