COLUMBUS — Conservative firebrand Ken Blackwell is forming a super PAC to harness enthusiasm for Republican President Donald Trump into electing new Ohio political leaders — for now, excluding himself.
The former Cincinnati mayor, Ohio secretary of state and Republican gubernatorial candidate announced the Defend US PAC in a tweet Tuesday. He called it an organization “focused on supporting political candidates who are committed to defending America and the American dream.”
Blackwell said he's seen polling suggesting that he could “effectively challenge” any Republican running for U.S. Senate but that he can “best serve the cause of freedom” by fielding a 2018 farm team supportive of Trump.
“We need those in elected office to Defend US; defend our personal freedoms, defend our jobs, defend our borders, defend our parent's rights to educational choices for their children, defend a fair justice system, defend the unborn, and defend the ideal that is America,” he wrote.
A super political action committee can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. Blackwell said his super PAC will back candidates in races from the local level to the General Assembly to next year's gubernatorial and Senate contests.
The 69-year-old Blackwell served on Trump's transition team.
His announcement follows a coup within the Ohio Republican Party by a chairwoman favored by the new president. Then-Chairman Matt Borges, an ally of Republican Gov. John Kasich, stepped aside to Jane Timken after two rounds of voting ended in stalemate. Trump made phone calls to some central committee members pushing for the change.
Three high-profile Republican state officeholders are already positioning for 2018 gubernatorial runs: Attorney General Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Secretary of State Jon Husted. GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth is also eyeing the seat.
Meanwhile, State Treasurer Josh Mandel is once again making a bid to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown next fall.
How Blackwell's effort would affect the hopes of those Republican candidates is not yet clear.