Ohio Senate primary Republican Matt Dolan receives Rob Portman's endorsement.

Columbus — Former Sen. Rob Portman endorsed Republican Matt Dolan in the acrimonious three-way race to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in fall, a potential boost in the final stretch.

The Cincinnati Republican and his wife, Jane, wrote to Ohioans that Dolan's “conservative record of accomplishment and his commitment to continue to focus on achieving results in the U.S. Senate set him apart” from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Trump-endorsed Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno.

The Portmans said LaRose and Moreno were “good people, who care deeply about our state,” but they chose Cleveland-area state senator Dolan. “America faces tremendous challenges,” they said, “and it is more important than ever that we elect leaders who embody conservative values and principles and have a track record of getting things done.”

All three Senate candidates wanted Portman's support. Republican circles respect him as a centrist and bipartisan dealmaker. Assisted in negotiating the $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed by Biden in 2021.

Former federal budget director and trade representative to Republican President George W. Bush, Portman served in the Senate from 2011 to 2023. Lamenting Washington's divisiveness and dysfunction, he retired in 2021. At the University of Cincinnati, Portman built a civility center last year.

As a moderate pragmatic like Portman, Dolan sought Portman's backing in 2022 when he ran for Senate. It wasn't to be. Instead, Portman nominated former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, who started strong but finished fifth in the crowded field with less than 6% of the vote. Former President Donald Trump's encouragement helped novelist and venture entrepreneur JD Vance win.

Dolan and LaRose are wrestling for votes in a narrower field to beat the Moreno campaign in Ohio's strong Trump coalition. Dolan may benefit from Portman's southwest Ohio name awareness as the March 19 primary approaches.

Where his family owns the Cleveland Guardians, Dolan is more known, although Moreno is also popular there. Akron-born LaRose moved to Columbus after becoming governor. Ohioans have twice elected him statewide, and his high-profile role as elections chief gives him the most name recognition.

Dolan said Portman “showed that a good public servant not only delivers results, but also safeguards the inheritance of future generations.” Moreno disputed Portman's ruling, while LaRose didn't.

Campaign spokesperson Reagan McCarthy said Bernie is proud to be endorsed by conservatives like President Trump, JD Vance, Jim Jordan, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Dave Yost, Vivek Ramaswamy, and many more in this primary. “This primary contrasts America-First versus America-Last.”