SIDNEY — Mike Gibbons, 69, of Fairview Park, will challenge Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel in the 2018 Republican primary for the chance to go up against incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Gibbons was in Sidney on Tuesday to talk with the Sidney Daily News about his campaign.
“One problem is name recognition. I have the next nine months to change that,” he said.
The candidate has never before run for public office. A native of the Cleveland west-side suburb of Parma, he earned his undergraduate degree at Kenyon College, a master’s degree in business from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and a law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
“I wanted to get into corporate finance, but with my socioeconomics background, I couldn’t, so I got into public finance,” he said. Gibbons consulted with local municipal councils on bond issues. At 37, he opened his own corporate finance firm, Brown Gibbons Lang & Co., now the “fourth most-recognized name in market finance. I’m very proud of that,” he said.
He is a wealthy donor to the Republican party and worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign.
“I was one of three finalists for [the position of] deputy secretary of commerce” in the Trump administration, he added. “I would have had to liquidate everything in 90 days. I couldn’t do that.”
If he is elected to the Senate, he will have 180 days to meet the same requirement.
Seeing his son as a Navy officer was what gave Gibbons the impetus to throw his hat into the ring.
“It impressed upon me that I had not done anything like that,” Gibbons said. “I want to see if I can do something to help the country. I’m always the guy raving about how crazy our Congress is. A friend said, ‘You’re the guy who should run.’”
Gibbons subscribes to some 100 periodicals and, according to his wife, Diane, reads them all.
“For the last 25 years I’ve studied every policy issue. I have this curiosity. Maybe it’s an obsession. I don’t think people in [Congress] now understand the issues enough to offer a compromise. There are always other ways to do things. Innovation is important. But principles can’t be compromised,” he said.
Gibbons said he feels his experience of negotiating with and advising CEOs across the country, as well as his early job experience in landscaping and construction and on a factory floor will stand him in good stead when it comes to working with fellow representatives to solve U.S. problems.
“We are a country who has to grow. We have a national debt that’s more than 100 percent of GNP [gross national product]. There are three ways to get out of that: default on the debt, which no one wants; inflate our way out; or grow the country to where national debt becomes a less significant part of GNP. We need to grow at 3 to 4 percent, not 2 percent. We need to find somebody to put in office who has private-sector experience,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons appreciates that Trump is a business-oriented president. He hopes that others will follow his lead and run for office not just despite their lack of political experience but because of it.
“I want to get rid of the political class. I hope I find others who feel that way, too. Career politicians are not what our Founders intended. I hope I can start a movement for people to run. Give a guy like me the chance to go in there and do what I can do. I think our country is in the balance,” he said.
Gibbons has firm ideas about how to tackle defense, health care reform, failing infrastructure, poverty and gridlock in Congress.
“The answer to every problem is not government,” he said.
He spoke about some of those alternative possibilites:
Concerning health care: “I would do a different system that would get government out of it as much as possible. With repeal and replace, we had an unbelieveable opportunity and we didn’t take it. Government should be involved but just as a payer.”
Concerning poverty: “It’s always troubled me that Republicans are viewed as these mean people. One of the principles is that we should take care of those less fortunate. I don’t think the state should be doing that [alone]. There are public/private partnerships. If it can’t be handled by the individual, then government has to step in, but it’s gone way beyond where it should be.”
Concerning gridlock: “I’m not into extremes. I’ve negotiated hundreds and hundreds of transactions. Lots of times, when people dig in their heels, they’re looking for someone to give a little on the other side.”
Gibbons considers himself a strong conservative who isn’t phased by people who think he can’t win.
“I was told I couldn’t do a corporate finance business in Cleveland,” he said with a laugh. “When I started, I heard, ‘You don’t have a chance.’ I’m hearing the same thing now. There were a lot of people who were supposed to talk me out [of running]. They ended up saying I should do it.”
According to his website, http://gibbonsforohio.com, he has “served as managing partner of the Cleveland Crunch professional soccer franchise, co-owner of Cheboygan Tap & Tool, and co-owner of Northern Lake Properties. In 2015, he co-founded Luna Living, a startup that provides treatment and recovery options for opioid addiction.”
He was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2002 by Ernst & Young.
He has been an active volunteer in the Cleveland area. He serves as the color commentator for Catholic High School Game of the Week football games and sits on the board of trustees and executive committee of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the Visiting Committee of Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management, and the Board of Visitors of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. He has previously served as vice chairman of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and on the board of trustees of the Ohio-Israel Chamber of Commerce, the finance advisory board of the University of Akron College of Business, the board of directors of North Coast Professional Sports LLC, the board of trustees of Magnificat and St. Ignatius High schools and the board of trustees of the Great Lakes Theater Festival.
He’s ready to put all that experience into serving Ohio in the U.S. Senate.
“I’m one of those who has been throwing my napkin at the TV for years. I’m tired of throwing my napkin at the televison,” he said. “We need more people telling the truth.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.