His first engagement was with a Democrat – a Democrat who would work as a senior consultant and associate on Obama’s campaign and in his White House. But now, at 30, in the summer of 2008, Mandel is married – in Jerusalem to the former Ilana Shafran, also a Democrat. Shafran was the granddaughter of Fannye Ratner Shafran, who together with her three brothers started the real estate development company Forest City Enterprises which helped make the Ratners one of the wealthiest, most prominent and most successful families. politically active from Ohio and elsewhere.
In the fall of 2008, Mandel also served as co-chair of Ohio Veterans for McCain, the Arizona senator and Republican presidential nominee this cycle. McCain, Mandel told The Associated Press, had the “instinct” to lead the country. Obama won Ohio and won the White House, of course, but east of Cleveland, Mandel was easily re-elected to his state representative seat.
And he surprised no one the following spring when he announced his first statewide run — for state treasurer. In a speech in Lima, Ohio, he showed shoes with holes in the soles that he said he wore knocking on 19,679 doors during his state representative runs. They gave him a standing ovation.
Retrospectively, and even in real time, the race in 2010 was a pivotal moment in Mandel’s history. The Tea Party revolt was on, the politics of Obama’s early years were marked by a more partisan and menacing national mood. Mandel led a different type of campaign.
Kevin Boyce, the outgoing state treasurer, was black. Amer Ahmad, Boyce’s first deputy, was Arab-American and Muslim. Boyce’s office had given a low-bid, $32 million public investment contract to a Boston bank that had just hired a Columbus-area lawyer named Mohammed Noure Alo — who was friends with Ahmad — as a lobbyist. Boyce also hired Alo’s wife as a receptionist in his office. Ahmad, Alo and Alo’s wife all attended the same mosque.
Mandel’s campaign accused Boyce of “cronyism and corruption”, issuing a fundraising appeal in which he used the word “mosque” three times. “We deserve public servants who use taxpayers’ money to hire people because they are qualified – not because they belong to their comrade’s mosque,” Mandel wrote.
And on Sept. 30, 2010, he hit television with a statewide broadcast of what may go down as the most notorious commercial of his career.
“Corruption”, his campaign called him. As publicity fodder, it was more than fair game. Boyce himself hadn’t broken any laws, but Ahmad and Alo were later convicted of money laundering and wire fraud and sentenced to prison in what turned out to be the world’s biggest bribery scheme. -wine in the annals of state government. But as bad as that may be, it’s not what people remember most: Mandel injected the 30-second spot with an unmistakable air of Islamophobia, using vaguely Middle Eastern music and leaving viewers l impression that Boyce, who is a Christian, was a member of the same mosque.
“What it was really about was uncovering the corruption that was going on under Kevin Boyce’s nose,” Jonathan Petrea, who led Mandel’s campaigns for state legislature, told me. “It should have been the take-out. Instead, everyone was distracted by allegations of Islamophobia,” he said.
“Mandel has shown he will do anything to win a vote. Josh would rather sink into outright lies and fearmongering,” Chris Redfern, then chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said in a statement to “His ad is nothing short of a modern-day slander of Willie Horton. He should take it off immediately, and he should be ashamed.
And he was. At least part of him was. Mandel took it off TV – although he kept it on his YouTube page – and he told a friend he regretted it. “He called me,” said Matt Cox, a GOP operative in Ohio who is no longer close to Mandel, “and he said, ‘I feel like I’ve really messed up here. “”
He said it publicly too, but not before he won.
“I regret having published the announcement” he says in Monthly Columbus. “I made a mistake.”
“After the election, I broke bread with Treasurer Boyce at Bob Evans’s,” he told local television. “And I apologized to him.”
“This will be an ad that will haunt Josh Mandel’s political career,” Redfern told the Ordinary Merchant this December.
At the time, however, it didn’t so much haunt Mandel’s career as give it a boost. He received a wave of positive reinforcements from his own party. Republicans started talking about him as Sherrod Brown’s challenger for the Senate. Mandel was sworn in as state treasurer in January. The chatter intensified in February. In March, a group of conservatives around the state launched a project.
Back on his home turf that spring at the annual Cuyahoga County Republican Party dinner, the group’s finance chairman concluded his presentation of the Mandel ascendancy in just three words.
“Run, Josh, run.”
Mandel spent most of his first two years as State Treasurer candidate for the United States Senate.
He did not officially announce his candidacy until 14 months later. In his freshman year alone, however, he traveled to fundraisers in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Utah and Hawaii, while missing 14 consecutive meetings of the Ohio Board of Deposit – which he was President. Justin Barasky, a longtime Brown aide who then worked for the Ohio Democratic Party, dubbed Mandel the state’s “absentee treasurer.”
In one of Mandel’s first interviews in his new job, he talked about Sherrod Brown. “Sherrod Brown,” he said, “voted to the left of Bernie Sanders, who is a socialist.”