Earning a coveted endorsement from former President Donald Trump was not enough to clear a path to the Republican nomination for Max Miller, who is running for an open House seat in Ohio.
Attorney Shay Hawkins, a former aide to Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, launched his campaign Wednesday, declaring himself the best candidate to ensure Republicans defend the suburban Cleveland district in the 2022 midterm elections.
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It was a subtle jab at Miller, a former staffer in the Trump White House, whose controversial past includes run-ins with law enforcement and misconduct allegations from an ex-girlfriend who also worked in the West Wing.
“I am not in this race to oppose anyone who is already in it,” Hawkins told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I am in this race because I am the best candidate to represent this area who can hit the ground running with experience the first day.”
Miller, in his early 30s, entered the race earlier this year as the primary challenger to incumbent Rep. Anthony Gonzalez.
Trump, eager to see Gonzalez ousted after the congressman voted to impeach him in the waning days of his presidency, quickly endorsed Miller. Gonzalez eventually dropped his reelection bid, presumably putting Miller on a glide path to the nomination, as well as a victory in the general election in the new, GOP-leaning 13th Congressional District. Hawkins, 47, who is black and uses a wheelchair, could alter that trajectory.
Scott and Trump enjoy good relations: The senator, a possible 2024 contender, delivered among the most effective speeches on the former president’s behalf at the 2020 Republican convention. And so Scott could function as something of a buffer for Hawkins, helping to prevent Trump from being overly critical of the Republican who decided to run against his endorsed pick.
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Meanwhile, Hawkins also worked as an aide to Republican Jim Renacci when he served in the House (Renacci represented roughly the same region as the district Shaw is running for.)
Renacci left the House in 2018 to run for Senate and was endorsed by Trump before he proceeded to lose to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. In this cycle, Renacci is challenging Gov. Mike DeWine in the GOP primary.