’s Brent Larkin: ‘Foul Five’ Republicans Running To Replace Rob Portman Will Heap Shame On Ohio

Columbus, OH — In his latest column,’s Brent Larkin lambasted the leading Republican Senate candidates – branding Josh Mandel, J.D. Vance, Jane Timken, Bernie Moreno, and Mike Gibbons as the ‘Foul Five’ – because they have “already shredded any sense of respectability in pursuit of a job for which they are uniquely unqualified.”

Larkin takes turns listing off just how low each member of the ‘Foul Five’ has gone to stand out in this crowded primary. His column comes on the heels of a Wall Street Journal article where the ‘Foul Five’ have all admitted they need to spend $10 million each in order to stand out in this crowded primary, which would be “unprecedented” in Ohio. 

“The Republican Party is running a pack of elitist millionaires who have been dubbed the ‘foul five’ while Ohio Democrats stand with working families, and we like our chances,” said Michael Beyer, a spokesperson for the Ohio Democratic Party.  

Key points below: ‘Foul Five’ seeking to replace Sen. Portman will heap shame on Ohio: Brent Larkin  

Brent Larkin

October 10, 2021 

Ohioans should prepare for the possibility of another enormous blow to what’s left of the state’s reputation. Of the seven candidates with a plausible chance of succeeding outgoing Sen. Rob Portman, at least five would be a giant-sized downgrade.

This is not to excuse Portman’s silent sanctions of former President Donald Trump’s toxic behavior and lies. But as a person and legislator, Portman possesses qualities far superior to the “Foul Five” who have already shredded any sense of respectability in pursuit of a job for which they are uniquely unqualified.

The Foul Five are Josh Mandel, J.D. Vance, Jane Timken, Bernie Moreno and Mike Gibbons. Should any one of them win next year’s Senate election, those of us who regularly criticized Portman will be yearning for his return the day after he leaves office.


But to win the primary, Dolan needs at least 30% of the vote, a tall order given that a CNN poll in September showed that 78% of the nation’s Republicans don’t believe Joe Biden won the presidency. More frightening, 54% believe there is evidence it was stolen – although no such evidence exists.

Attractive as Dolan may be to those who believe honesty is a virtue, it’s wise to remember that voter enthusiasm and turnout in Republican primaries tend to be highest among those whose views are far right of center. The same is true of Democratic primaries and far-left voters.

Members of the Foul Five have apparently concluded that embracing an anti-science, anti-fact agenda is the only path to victory in next spring’s Senate primary. The rallying cry of this sick and twisted appeal is “freedom” – freedom for Ohioans to live their lives as they see fit, even if it jeopardizes the lives of others, including children.

The worst of the Foul Five, for now, is Mandel, the former state treasurer whose long service in elected life is best remembered for a 2017 scheme using $1.84 million in tax dollars to promote himself. So egregious was Mandel’s waste of taxpayer funds that the Republican-run legislature amended state law to prevent some future officeholder from repeating it.

Mandel has no soul, no bottom. He uses social media to vaguely hint at the need for violence and often argues the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. On Sept. 23, Mandel took to Twitter with the preposterous claim there was widespread voter fraud in Ohio last year, offering no evidence, because none exists.

But the GOP’s race to the bottom is a competitive event. J.D. Vance, a Fox News favorite and author of the runaway best-selling book, “Hillbilly Elegy,” is working hard at proving more repugnant than Mandel. During the 2016 campaign, Vance positioned himself as a truth-teller with, “I can’t stomach Trump. I think that he’s noxious and is leading the white working class to a very dark place.”

Now, it’s Vance who wants to lead America to a very dark place, regularly serving the base helpings of bigotry and hatred. He revels in describing immigrants as “dirty” and regularly rails against “elitists,” then jets off to the Hamptons to fill his campaign coffers with their money.

On Sept. 5, Vance reached a point of no return, raging in a tweet that right-wing conspiracy crackpot Alex Jones “is a far more reputable source of information than Rachel Maddow.” Three weeks later, a federal judge in Texas ruled against Jones in a lawsuit brought by families of the children massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Jones had cruelly claimed the Sandy Hook shooting never happened. He said the whole thing was a hoax.

If this is Vance’s idea of “reputable,” Ohio would be far better off without him. Not long ago a fresh face with a compelling life story, now it’s Vance who has been unmasked as a hoax. His journey from best-selling author to candidate for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat was best described in a July profile in The Atlantic headlined, “The Moral Collapse of J.D. Vance.”

Timken, who resigned as Ohio Republican Party chair to run for the Senate, and successful Cleveland businessmen Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno, are a wee bit less contemptible than Mandel and Vance. But that requires clearing the lowest political bar imaginable.

Of these three, only Timken has a plausible path to victory. But her betrayal of U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez for the Cleveland-area congressman’s vote to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 insurrection evidenced a mind-numbing lack of character.

At the end of January, Timken told The Plain Dealer and that Gonzalez had a “rational reason” for his impeachment vote, describing him as “a very good person.”

He is. She isn’t. Barely a month later, the conscience-free Timken called on Gonzalez to resign.


Trump’s “election fraud” claims are a nonissue to anyone who believes facts matter. But facts clearly matter not all to the Foul Five, because they all lack the constitution to demand Trump stop spreading these lies. Not one of them seems to care Trump’s obvious goal is to undermine voter confidence in democracy.

A far better option for the Foul Five would be for them to take their talents elsewhere.

I’ve found just the spot.

The village of Rendville is the tiniest town in Ohio. Tucked in the foothills of southeast Ohio, about 25 miles north of Athens, Rendville is home to 28 residents, down from 36 in 2010.

Funds are scarce in Rendville. If a road needs repair, residents do it themselves. For police and fire protection, they rely on the generosity of neighboring communities.

Bryan Bailey has been mayor of Rendville since 2000. “I’ve been at this a long time,” Bailey told me. “I’m pretty sure I won’t run again.”

And therein lies an opportunity for the Foul Five. They should all move to Rendville and run for mayor in 2023.

Rendville’s loss would be Ohio’s gain.

Brent Larkin was The Plain Dealer’s editorial director from 1991 until his retirement in 2009.