WESTLAKE, Ohio — A prominent car dealer from Cleveland is hoping his business record and journey as an immigrant will help him land the Republican nomination for Ohio’s 2022 U.S. Senate race.

What You Need To Know

  • Longtime GOP donor Bernie Moreno is one of five major candidates in Ohio’s 2022 U.S. Senate Republican primary

  • In a lengthy interview at his Westlake office, Moreno discussed his platform, former President Trump and the state of the race

  • Moreno is a first-time candidate who faces the challenge of building up his name ID across the state

  • Once a Trump critic, Moreno is now fully on board with the former president’s agenda

Bernie Moreno has spent years donating his fortune to Republican politicians.

Now, he’s decided to become a politician himself, and is claiming the mantle of the ‘outsider’ in the crowded GOP primary.

“Quite frankly, the reason I am doing that is because I was a donor and I met a lot of candidates,” Moreno told Spectrum News in an interview at his Westlake office last week. “And I thought to myself, honestly, I wouldn't hire them to run one of my enterprises, yet we're hiring them to run our country.”

Moreno moved to Ohio 16 years ago and built a car dealership empire before jumping into the tech industry.

He launched his campaign in April, complete with a video telling the story of his mother bringing him and his siblings to America from Colombia to escape socialism.

Moreno is one of five major Republican candidates competing to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman. Like the rest of the field, he’s aligning himself with former President Donald Trump in hopes of landing an endorsement.

“My agenda is the policies that President Trump put in place are the ones that I support,” Moreno said.

But when Trump’s 2016 campaign was gaining ground, Moreno felt differently.

NBC News has reported the Cleveland businessman called Trump a “lunatic” and “maniac” in emails with GOP officials as Trump was getting closer to becoming the party’s nominee.

But Moreno eventually flipped to supporting Trump, and now claims Trump was the most impactful president since Ronald Reagan. He’s even hired former Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway to work with his campaign.

Moreno also stopped supporting Ohio Congressman Anthony Gonzalez (R, OH-16) after Gonzalez was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Moreno, who had been one of Gonzalez’s top donors, now backs former Trump aide Max Miller’s attempt to unseat Gonzalez. Miller also happens to be engaged to Moreno’s daughter.

“The reality is that Donald Trump was somebody who I thought was really actually a Democrat. Turns out he's actually a very conservative president,” Moreno said. “Anthony Gonzalez betrayed his constituents, and I can't support that.”

When asked about Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen, Moreno didn’t directly answer and would only say that election integrity was needed.

He said his top legislative priority would be bringing manufacturing back to America from China.

Moreno is committing to serving only two terms if elected, and he wants voters to hold him accountable for achieving his goals.

“If I say these things, and then in three or four or five years, and I'm running for re-election again one more time, and I didn't do that, do not vote for me. Keep this interview,” he said, pointing at the camera. “Do not vote for me if I don't do these things.”

Moreno said he’s spending the next few months focusing on fundraising as he tries to break out of the crowded Republican primary field.

Despite being worth millions, he has yet to put any of his own money in the race and has sworn off collecting dollars from corporate PACs.