Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is running for U.S. Senate in a three-way Republican primary, may be telling Ohioans that he likes former President Donald Trump now, but that is a wholly new position for the longtime politician who spent many years as a self-proclaimed leader of the #NeverTrump movement.
LaRose, who recently entered the U.S. Senate Republican primary in Ohio against state Sen. Matt Dolan and businessman Bernie Moreno, came out and endorsed Trump for president in 2024 as one of his first acts as a candidate. But that was extremely atypical for LaRose, who in 2016 declared himself a leader of the #NeverTrump movement — opposition that LaRose continued, very publicly, all the way through Trump’s presidency even calling a tweet the then-president sent in 2019 “racist.”
Most incredibly, perhaps, a LaRose campaign spokesman told Breitbart News when asked about the comments contained throughout this story that even though LaRose endorsed Trump in 2024, he does not retract any of the below-reported statements — in other words, LaRose stands by every single one of them including calling a tweet Trump sent “racist” — and that LaRose still to this day despite the endorsement regularly does still “disagree” with Trump and intends to continue to attack him publicly whenever he does.
“Frank LaRose isn’t just a casual anti-Trumper, he’s well known in Ohio political circles for having a burning hatred of Trump — which is why he refused to endorse him in either 2016 or 2020 and repeatedly criticized him during his time in office,” an Ohio Republican operative told Breitbart News. “Now that he’s running for Senate he’s pretending to be a pro-Trump conservative, but the real Frank LaRose is an anti-Trump, John Kasich-style RINO.”
A March 1, 2016, tweet from LaRose — which is now deleted — shows himself declaring allegiance to the #NeverTrump movement and promoting an image of manure which LaRose hyped a “manure message” to Trump from an Ohio farm where someone wrote in giant mounds of animal excrement “NO TRUMP.”
“Hopefully,” LaRose tweeted, Trump “sees this manure message from his 757 today. Welcome to John Kasich Country!”
That was before Trump won the Republican nomination for president a couple months later in early May 2016, but when Trump became the GOP nominee LaRose’s allegiance to the Never Trump movement never wavered. LaRose, then a state senator, refused to endorse Trump even after the Republican National Convention (RNC) where Trump formally became the nominee. LaRose met one-on-one with Trump in early August 2016 — when Trump was the Republican nominee for president — and outright refused to endorse him, calling Trump “very divisive and negative” and someone whose “public persona” is something that has “concerned me.”
“State Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley Township, who has declined so far to endorse Trump, said Wednesday Trump did not close the deal with him during their brief conversation at the Brookside event Monday,” an August 2016 report from the Canton Repository shows. “While LaRose said he seemed like a nice person in the 15 seconds they spoke, LaRose, a supporter of Gov. John Kasich who’s also refused to endorse Trump, said, ‘the public persona he’s created is part of what’s concerned me and again it seems very divisive and negative.'”
LaRose continued his opposition to Trump through October 2016, weeks before the general election when Trump would face Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and defeat her, no thanks to LaRose.
In an October 11, 2016, report, local newspaper the Akron Beacon Journal reported that LaRose — just as early voting was beginning in the critical rust belt state of Ohio — pronounced that he would never vote for Trump for president.
Exclusive: Trump Lays Out Vision for Country Upon Return to Office in Long-form Video Special:Matthew Perdie / Breitbart News, Jack Knudsen / Breitbart News
LaRose, the newspaper wrote, “who is not running for re-election, said he will neither support nor vote for Trump.” That LaRose pronouncement of ultimate Never Trump ideology weeks before the election came just after the release by the Washington Post of the Access Hollywood tape of Trump.
LaRose, the newspaper wrote, “gave the sharpest rebuke to Trump’s lewd comments.” LaRose went so far as calling Trump’s Access Hollywood comments “disgusting and appalling” as well as “abhorrent.”
“What’s come to light in the last couple days is disgusting and appalling, particularly as a father of three little girls,” LaRose said. “I find it abhorrent.”
When he was running for Secretary of State the next year in 2017, LaRose publicly claimed he did end up voting for Trump — but there is no evidence in the public sphere that he actually did that or said that until later when he was running for another higher office in Ohio. That is very similar to now, where LaRose has endorsed Trump in 2024 — but the record shows he is a fierce and ardent anti-Trump Republican.
A 2017 report from the Akron Beacon Journal on the Secretary of State primary shows LaRose also said Trump “wasn’t worthy of the party of Lincoln,” and said Trump has “shown himself to be crass and uncouth all along.”
Once LaRose won the GOP primary for Secretary of State in 2018, though, he went right back to criticizing Trump. In a quote to the Cincinnati Enquirer in the summer of 2018, LaRose called then-President Trump someone unworthy of being a “role model” for America’s children.
“I like the idea of a president that’s a role model for our children,” LaRose said. “Our current president doesn’t really fall into that category.”
Once LaRose won the 2018 general election, when he got into office as the Secretary of State of Ohio, he sharpened his knives in attacks against Trump. In early 2019, according to a March report in the Columbus Dispatch, LaRose attacked Trump, calling fake news media the “enemy of the people” as “dangerous” to democracy.
“Several times in my life I’ve raised my right hand and swore to uphold the Constitution, and part of that is the First Amendment,” LaRose said. “I guess that’s one area where I often differ with the president. Some of the things he says about the press being the enemy of the people, I just don’t agree with. I think that it’s dangerous.”
In the next paragraph, LaRose said that while he supports Trump he disagreed with him often. “But certainly as the commander in chief, and the person that was duly elected to this office, I support our president,” LaRose said. “I think it’s important we hold him to a certain standard. I’ve said on numerous occasions that even though I agree with the policy positions that he’s taken, I often disagree with his tone or the way he conducts himself.”
Then in July 2019, LaRose went so far as calling a Trump tweet “racist.” When Trump tweeted leftist progressives like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who is from Somalia originally, should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” LaRose leapt into action to call Trump’s tweet “racist.”
“The president says things that I would never condone, that I believe are false,” LaRose told the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s editorial board. “The most recent tweet is racist – whether it was intended that way or not, I’m not in the man’s mind and heart. I don’t know, but that’s how it sounds to me.”
Amazingly, too, that July 2019 Cincinnati Enquirer story reported that a month earlier LaRose struck a deal with Michigan’s Democrat Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to not endorse a presidential candidate in 2020—when Trump was again on the ballot, that time for reelection.
“LaRose announced last month that he wouldn’t endorse a candidate for president in 2020,” the Enquirer reported. “It’s part of an initiative with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, to encourage civility in politics – and a deeper trust of its election officials.”
LaRose, sure enough, refused to add his name as an Ohio campaign co-chair for Trump in 2020, and did not support the incumbent president of his own political party in his reelection bid.
Then, even as recently as earlier this year, LaRose attacked the significance of a Trump endorsement on leaked audio recordings, arguing Trump could not deliver significant portions of votes to his preferred candidates.
And true to form also just this year, in April, LaRose was cavorting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who until his campaign collapsed and has failed in its reboot was once viewed by Never Trumpers as the best vehicle to stop Trump in 2024 — at an Ohio event where he spoke glowingly of the Florida governor:
LaRose, an Army vet and Ohio secretary of state, gives DeSantis a warm welcome, expressing excitement to hear from a fellow Italian-American veteran.
— Henry J. Gomez (@HenryJGomez) April 13, 2023
LaRose’s Senate campaign, in response to questions about all of the above, said he stands by everything he said about Trump — including most importantly that he believes Trump’s 2019 tweet about Omar was “racist.” The LaRose campaign highlighted Trump’s endorsement of LaRose in the Secretary of State race and launched into attacks on others in the race. The LaRose campaign also, particularly revealingly, stated that LaRose does regularly still “disagree” with Trump on many things — which means, of course, he still believes all of the above reported statements per his own Senate campaign.
“Frank’s proud to be the only incumbent Secretary of State in the nation to be endorsed by President Trump,” LaRose’s campaign said, and continued:
He’s also proud to have worked on the President’s inaugural advance team, assisting the Trump family with security and event logistics while Bernie Moreno was still calling himself a Never Trumper. Unlike Bernie, Frank’s not paying people to kiss up to the President or to scrub his past critical statements. Frank very clearly said in his endorsement of the President that they don’t always agree on style or substance, and the President expressed his appreciation for Frank’s support at a two-hour dinner they had a couple of weeks ago with Ohio’s elected leaders who support the President. Frank has praised President Trump’s policies, leadership and accomplishments, and he’s not afraid to say it when they disagree. He looks forward to working with President Trump as Ohio’s next United States Senator.
One of the biggest reasons why these comments — and their timing throughout the past several years — are so significant is because LaRose is currently competing with Moreno to try to get Trump’s endorsement in the 2024 Republican senate primary in Ohio. Given his history with Trump, one would think that as soon as he would get it — or not — LaRose would go right back to his default positions on Trump as evidenced by how he handled himself through the 2018 election.
Dolan, the other candidate, is openly still anti-Trump — and Trump has spoken out loudly against him too, so it is highly unlikely he and Trump would ever come together.
One of Trump’s top allies, former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, endorsed Moreno this week in Ohio and when campaigning for him compared Dolan and LaRose to the late former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT):
She also compared his two opponents, Frank LaRose and Matt Dolan, to John McCain and Mitt Romney ὄ pic.twitter.com/FMKFsbJN6P
— Jack Poso 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) August 7, 2023
“The guys he [Moreno] is running against are like a John McCain and a Mitt Romney,” Lake said of LaRose and Dolan.
A Trump endorsement would very likely power Moreno to an electoral victory just like his endorsement last cycle of now-Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) helped Vance surge in the primary and win the general election. Vance backs Moreno in 2024 now, and Trump has spoken highly favorably of Moreno though he still has yet to formally endorse.