ASHTABULA — Mike Gibbons, a wealthy investment banker from Cleveland, said he’s making his primary bid for the Republican ticket in this year’s U.S. Senate race as a “conservative outsider.”
One of the top contenders for the party’s nomination, along with U.S. 16th District Rep. Jim Renacci, Gibbons said he’s a self-made businessman looking to bring his ideals and corporate finance expertise to Washington. He was previously interviewed or considered for positions in the Trump administration, including Health and Human Services budget director, the Small Business Administration and deputy Secretary of Congress.
Gibbons’ campaign has drawn parallels to Washington outsider Trump’s — though Gibbons told the Star Beacon “I’m not Trump’s style,” he also wants Mexico to pay for a border wall, and said he has a funding plan — but he has received few official endorsements from his own party.
Trump, former Senate hopeful and current Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and several federal lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Rob Portman, have all backed Renacci. Gibbons said he feels Republican Senate leadership is working against him.
“We have a Republican party that wants to pick our candidates. I always thought voters did that,” he told the Star Beacon during a sit-down interview last week.
But after stumping in all Ohio’s 88 counties, Gibbons said he’s found support from those seeking non-institutionalized candidates. He said he feels Trump’s efforts to “drain the swamp” are still a “work in progress.” Gibbons has received the nod from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Ohio Women for Trump Chairwoman Joy Padgett, Citizens for Trump and the Franklin County GOP.
“In most cases, we have a great number of zealots that want to see me elected and (to) retire the career politicians,” he said. “I think we saw in the Trump election there’s a lot of Democrats that also agree with my philosophy.”
Gibbons’ campaign has received about $2.2 million as of April, according to Federal Election Commission filings from last month — most of which has been disbursed. By comparison, Renacci raised twice that as of the end of March and Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown, the incumbent who’s unopposed in the primary, has raised about $18.6 million as of April.
Gibbons, a Parma native, graduated from St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland. He earned political science and economics degrees from Kenyon College in Gambier, then a management degree from Case Western Reserve University and finally his law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, both in Cleveland.
He started working with “literally nothing,” he said. At 27 years old, he was made partner at Cleveland investment firm McDonald and Co., according to the biography on his official website. By 35, he was CEO of Underwood Nehaus and Co. And in 1989, he founded middle-market investment firm Brown, Gibbons, Lang and Co. in Cleveland, which has helped local companies expand through financial advice or capital.
“I have a lot of views that would not be typical (of a) guy going to Washington from Wall Street,” he said. “Taxes, regulation, how to make sure the government stays out of the way — there isn’t going to be someone in the Senate that knows any better than I do.”
Gibbons said Mexican border entry fees could also pay for a border wall, estimated to cost $12 billion to $21.6 billion, with annual maintenance as high as $150 million, according to an April release from Gibbons. A $10 entry fee for the between 400,000 to 500,000 daily legal crossers could bring in as much as $1.8 billion annually, the release states.
Gibbons said he decided to run following a session with Brown in which several Cleveland-area CEOs were invited to comment on a tax bill that could lower corporate tax rates. They ultimately were lowered, but only enough to make corporations “just competitive” internationally, he said.
He railed against former President Barack Obama for what he perceived was an anti-business stance and blamed the federal government for setting up the 2008 economic collapse. He said he felt banks offering subprime mortgages was “incredibly stupid” but not criminal.
“The government teed up the whole collapse in 2008. … They came up with the brilliant idea that everybody should own a home,” he said. “The government forced the mortgage industry to give those people homes. … Whenever the government gets involved, it distorts the market.”
He also praised the Trump administration for a tax plan under which “thousands and thousands of projects are going to work.”
“The government doesn’t create jobs — businesses do,” he said, adding the government can only help by “staying out of the way.”
And like Trump, Gibbons stressed he “doesn’t have to” run for office — he’s already successful, he said.
“I’m not going there to make money. I’m going there to serve our country, serve Ohio and put policies and programs in place that can give my kids and grandkids the same opportunities I had,” he said.