WASHINGTON, D.C. — In his role as Ohio Secretary of State, Frank LaRose loves talking about the accuracy of Ohio’s elections.
What You Need To Know
- Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose spoke with Spectrum News while in Washington attending an annual secretaries of state conference
- LaRose confirmed he is seriously considering running for U.S. Senate in 2024
- Spectrum News asked LaRose about why he supported new voting restrictions passed in Ohio in December, despite boasting about how secure the state’s elections already are
- LaRose also discussed why he’s comfortable remaining aligned with former President Donald Trump, even though he continues to spread baseless claims about election fraud
Audits showed the 2020 race for president was 99.98% accurate in the Buckeye State. It’s something LaRose discussed this week in Washington at an annual meeting for the National Association of Secretaries of State.
“We learn from other states, but I think in a lot of cases too, other states learn from Ohio because of the reputation that we’ve built as the real gold standard for how to run free and fair elections,” LaRose told Spectrum News in an interview on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
LaRose, who’s long been considered a rising star in Ohio Republican politics, confirmed he is weighing whether to run for U.S. Senate in 2024 against Democratic incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown.
It could help explain why LaRose has remained aligned with former President Donald Trump, even though Trump continues to spread baseless claims of voter fraud.
While LaRose uses words like “clean” and “honest” to describe Ohio’s recent elections, he supported new voting restrictions that Ohio Republicans in the state legislature passed during a lame-duck session in December.
Spectrum News asked LaRose why, if the 2020 and 2022 elections in Ohio were so secure, these changes were needed.
“Well, first of all, you don’t rest on your laurels,” LaRose said. “The way that the American people, the way the people of Ohio, expect us to do our work is to constantly look for ways to improve and to grow and to learn over time.”
The new voting law requires voters to show a photo ID to cast a ballot, doing away with being able to show a utility bill or pay stub; it restricts pandemic-era curbside voting to those with physical disabilities; and it lowered the number of days county election boards have to count mail-in ballots to four from 10.
LaRose disagreed with that last measure, but still backed the overall bill. Critics say it will suppress voter turnout.
Last year, LaRose endorsed and campaigned for JD Vance for U.S. Senate, even though Vance backs Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him because of fraud.
“Are you guys excited to help JD take back the United States Senate?” LaRose asked a crowd in Cuyahoga Falls during a Vance event in May 2022.
LaRose also accepted Trump’s endorsement for his own reelection bid, even though Trump has called for voting by mail and early voting to end completely.
Spectrum News asked LaRose if, by appearing with and supporting Trump and Vance, he agrees with them that the 2020 election was stolen.
“Yeah, so this is that kind of false equivalence that people try to make, that if you appear with someone that you must be 100% with them, lockstep on everything,” LaRose said. “That’s just not true. It’s not the real world either.”
While LaRose speaks fondly of Trump’s policy record as president, he’s not ready to endorse Trump in the 2024 race.
“When it comes to who’s going to be my party’s standard-bearer in 2024, that’s really a decision for millions of Republican primary voters all over the country to make. And it’s not something I’m going to weigh in on anytime soon,” LaRose said.
Having just started his final term as secretary of state, LaRose is also planning out his future.
He’ll be back in the Washington, D.C. area next month to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which has become a mainstay for Trump supporters and a springboard for Republican politicians looking to elevate their profile.
Asked why he’s comfortable speaking at an event that will feature multiple guests that support Trump’s baseless election claims, along with the fact that CPAC Chairman Matt Schlapp was recently accused of sexual assault, which he denies, LaRose said it’s about attending a gathering of fellow conservatives.
“This idea that I need to somehow agree with every other speaker that’s going to be on the dais that day, that’s nonsense,” he told Spectrum News. “And whatever kind of legal problems any of the organizers have, that’s not for me to decide either.”
For months, Ohio political watchers have assumed that LaRose will run for Senate in 2024. He told Spectrum News he is seriously considering it.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s something I’m taking a very close look at… to be able to serve at the federal level is something that intrigues me,” LaRose said. “And so I’m actively looking at it, looking at building a team and figuring out can I raise the money to do that? And that’s kind of the big question.”
But mention Brown, and LaRose already sounds like a candidate.
“There is incongruity, there is misalignment between Sherrod Brown and the people of Ohio, because the values that he represents here in Washington are not consistent with the values that Ohioans have,” LaRose said.
On Thursday, portions of a report filed by a special grand jury in Georgia were released that shed light on its investigation into the pressure campaign by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. The campaign focused on local election officials, including the secretary of state.
According to the report excerpts, the grand jury voted unanimously that there was no widespread fraud in Georgia’s election, and the panel is recommending prosecutors charge at least one witness with perjury.
Spectrum News asked LaRose what he thought of Trump, and his allies pressuring a fellow secretary of state.
“You know, I think that it’s maybe in some ways to be expected,” LaRose said. “Candidates, campaigns are going to have different opinions about how well or how poorly you did your job. And they’re going to want to try to influence how you conduct yourself in office… I follow what the law says in Ohio, that’s what we do.”
LaRose previously told Spectrum News he would have ignored Trump’s pressuring, had the former president called him in 2020. He reiterated that Thursday.
“It’s a false choice to say that you have to choose either a convenient election or a secure election. We have both,” LaRose said of Ohio. “We have elections that are both convenient and secure. That’s what Ohioans want. That’s what we deliver. Anybody that asked me to do anything other than that, again, wouldn’t get much of an audience from me.”
If he jumps into the Senate race, LaRose will have at least one other primary rival. State Sen. Matt Dolan has already formally declared his candidacy.