‘Pastors Over Politicians’ Candidate Gains Support of 114 Ohio Clergy Members

‘Pastors Over Politicians’ Candidate Gains Support of 114 Ohio Clergy Members
A group of pastors pray with Ohio Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel at a "Faith and Freedom" rally in Mansfield, Ohio, in early March. (Courtesy of Josh Mandel)
Jeff Louderback

At a town hall gathering in northeast Ohio, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel is surrounded by a group of pastors. Their hands rest on his shoulders and all heads are bowed in prayer.

The moment is a microcosm of the former Ohio State Treasurer and Ohio State Representative’s unconventional campaign strategy to win the GOP primary, capture the general election, and replace retiring U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.

Since announcing his intention to run for Portman’s seat last year, Mandel has centered his campaign on churches by hosting “Faith & Freedom” rallies across Ohio.

“The mantra of our campaign is pastors over politicians,” Mandel told The Epoch Times. “I’m more interested in earning the support and endorsements of pastors, Christian activists, and citizens who are Christians than getting approval from politicians.

Ohio GOP U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel is centering his campaign on events at churches across Ohio. (Courtesy of Josh Mandel)
Ohio GOP U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel is centering his campaign on events at churches across Ohio. (Courtesy of Josh Mandel)

“The right to life, freedom, and traditional Biblical values are under assault from the secular left and the mainstream media. They have no respect for the sanctity of life or the Judeo-Christian bedrock on which America was founded,” Mandel added.

“We are motivating and inspiring pastors to get active in politics from the pulpit and engage in political discussion in their communities.”

Last fall, Mandel gained an endorsement from Ohio Value Voters, a faith-based conservative organization.

In early March, a group of Ohio pastors released an open letter giving their support to the 44-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

“Based on a Biblical worldview, our strong conviction as 114 clergy throughout the State of Ohio, Josh Mandel will best serve as U.S. Senator representing Ohio for the upcoming May 3rd, 2022, primary election to advance the cause of faith, family, and freedom,” the joint statement said.

The pastors are backing Mandel partly because of his “support for the sanctity of life and the defunding of abortion providers, advocacy of biological gender and traditional marriage, advocacy of religious freedom, support of self-defense and local law enforcement, support for parental rights and resistance to divisive social justice, and support for election integrity,” according to the letter.

“Whether it is the culture war or the Constitutional crisis, we need men like Josh Mandel in the U.S. Senate who have an uncommon valor and who do not have a wishbone for a spine,” said J.C. Church, the founder and lead pastor of Bucyrus, Ohio-based Victory in Truth Ministries.

Mandel is engaged in a close battle with Cleveland investment banker Mike Gibbons in the GOP Senate primary.

A Fox News poll conducted by Beacon Research and Shaw & Company Research from March 2 to March 6, showed Gibbons with 22 percent support followed by Mandel (20 percent), venture capitalist and Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance (11 percent), former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken (9 percent), and State Sen. Matt Dolan (7 percent).

In late February, a poll conducted by The Hill/NBC4i/Emerson College placed Gibbons first with 22.4 percent followed by Mandel (14.9 percent), Vance (7.7 percent), Dolan (6.2 percent), and Timken (5.7 percent).

Mandel said that a focus on constitutional-conservative ideals and Judeo-Christian principles and values will propel him to a victory in the primary and general elections.

Evangelicals compose 29 percent of Ohio’s adult population, according to the Pew Research Center. Evangelicals also represent 39 percent of the Ohio GOP, which is almost double the percentage of Catholics and mainline Protestants (20 percent and 21 percent, respectively).

“I believe the only way we’re going to save the country is by electing fighters and the only places in which we’re going to save the country are houses of worship,” Mandel said.

This is Mandel’s third run for U.S. Senate. He lost to Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2012 and withdrew from the race in 2018 to care for his then-wife Illana Shafran. The couple divorced in 2020.

Mandel is the grandson of Holocaust survivors, which is the motivation behind his belief that the United States needs a Judeo-Christian revolution, he explained. His grandfather survived multiple concentration camps, and his grandmother was sheltered by Christian families.

“From a very young age, it was instilled in me that I owe a debt of gratitude to men and women of faith, and specifically to courageous Christians,” Mandel said.

Ohio U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel and pastor J.C . Church appear at a Faith and Freedom rally at Ascent Church in Westlake, Ohio, on March 9. (Courtesy of Josh Mandel)
Ohio U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel and pastor J.C . Church appear at a Faith and Freedom rally at Ascent Church in Westlake, Ohio, on March 9. (Courtesy of Josh Mandel)

“During World War II, my Jewish grandmother Fernanda lived in Torino, Italy. During the Nazi invasion, her life was at risk. However, in Torino, there was a network of courageous Christians who bound together to hide and care for many Jewish children as they were being pursued by the Nazis.

“These Christian families showed tremendous faith and courage,” Mandel added. “They knew if the Jewish children were found in their Christian homes, not only would the children be killed, but their Christian families would be killed as well.”

Born in Cleveland, Mandel earned a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University in 2000 and a Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. The father of three served on the Lyndhurst City Council before serving two terms as a state representative and then state treasurer from 2011 to 2019.

Mandel served eight years in the Marine Reserves as an intelligence specialist and completed two tours in Iraq. During both tours, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for “superior performance of his duties.”

The “war being waged on faith by the secular left” is what inspired Mandel to seek Portman’s seat.

At town halls and in media interviews, Mandel frequently says that, if elected, he will legislate with The Bible in one hand and the Constitution in the other.

Liberals, Mandel said, think that America is one nation under government while conservatives believe the country is one nation under God. Those principles are appealing to the endorsing pastors.

“Josh’s position in defending The Bible and the Constitution is admirable,” said Daniel Wolvin, who is pastor of North Columbus Baptist Church.

“His track record of fighting for religious freedom especially stands out. Our religious beliefs are different, and he has been consistent on fighting for beliefs to be different and be honored.”

Wolvin is state director of Awake America Ohio, an organization designed to get pastors and churches involved to establish better relationships with legislators. He said he appreciates Mandel’s non-traditional campaign strategy of holding events in churches and courting Christians.

Freedom of Religion

“Even before the American Revolution, preachers addressed political issues from the pulpits,” Wolvin said. “Much of the thirst for independence was created in the hearts and minds of people through freedom in scripture.”

To illustrate Mandel’s commitment to speaking out about religious freedom, Wolvin referenced as an example of when Mandel was a freshman state legislator.

Mandel publicly opposed then Ohio Speaker of the House and current Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted after Husted instituted a rule banning chaplains from praying “in the name of Jesus” before sessions.

“In America, we exercise freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Pastors should be free to give any prayer they choose,” Mandel said, recalling the moment.

“It was never the intent of our founders to prevent public displays of faith, nor to tell people of faith that their views and freedom are not welcome in the public square.”

The 114 pastors also wrote that their endorsement of Mandel is based on his record as a state treasurer and state representative.  Mandel is the only candidate who has won a statewide race, the clergy members pointed out. He prevailed in both state treasurer races by double-digit margins.

Mandel is a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump and the American First platform.

At the Faith and Freedom events, Mandel is outspoken against abortion, Critical Race Theory, and planned parenthood.

Mandel has said that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is a “tyrant” and his handling of COVID-19 “was horrendous.”
Also, “he was a complete failure, and he trampled on our liberty and conservative values.”

‘You Guys are the Enemy’

Last summer, he tweeted a video of himself burning a face mask with the caption “Freedom.” He won’t disclose if he’s been vaccinated against COVID-19, insisting that is his right.

About vaccine passports, he tweeted, “We’ve seen this before. Nazi Germany also registered citizens. Our liberty is under attack.”

He appeared at a West Geauga Local School Board meeting and told the audience that masks are a form of child abuse.

During an on-air interview late last year, Mandel told a Spectrum News reporter that “mainstream media like yourself are the enemy. You guys have been pushing this fake news on COVID, fake news on impeachment, fake news on Jan. 6, and I really believe in my heart of hearts that you guys are the enemy. And you guys have created so many of the problems in this country.”

He added that “by and large, the mainstream media are not real journalists. They are left-wing activists masquerading as journalists.”

Mandel is “the only candidate in this race willing to say that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald J. Trump,” he exclaims.

“Other Republicans say it is time to move on. I feel we cannot move on until we fully investigate prosecute and convict all Democrats who cheated in the 2020 election and make sure it never happens again,” Mandel said.

“The cheating trampled on the rights of God-fearing, America-loving citizens.”

Mandel believes the GOP is in a fight for the soul of the Republican Party and conservative movement.

“I’m going to Washington not to be civil, not to be bipartisan, but I’m going there to fight for the Constitution, for traditional family values, and for the Trump, America-First agenda,” Mandel said.

“Whether that means fighting radical liberals like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, or it means fighting squishy, establishment Republicans like Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney, I’m going there to fight.”

Jeff Louderback covers news and features on the White House and executive agencies for The Epoch Times. He also reports on Senate and House elections. A professional journalist since 1990, Jeff has a versatile background that includes covering news and politics, business, professional and college sports, and lifestyle topics for regional and national media outlets.
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