Ohio GOP Senate candidates call for their Republican governor to reopen state after COVID lockdowns

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The two major Republican candidates running for Ohio’s open Senate seat are urging the Buckeye State’s GOP governor to follow in the footsteps of Texas and Mississippi and immediately lift the state’s COVID mask mandate and other restrictions implemented during the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel on Wednesday told Fox News that he’s "calling on Gov. [Mike] DeWine to immediately remove the statewide mask mandate, remove all restrictions on businesses and require that all public schools open for full five day weeks."

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Mandel spoke soon after issuing a statement on his push to reopen Ohio.

Mandel’s major rival so far in the 2022 race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman – former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken – also highlighted in a statement that "with declining COVID-19 cases, the increasing availability of vaccines and the coming arrival of Spring, now is the time to fully reopen Ohio’s economy and ensure every child can attend school in-person."

Timken said that she’ll "continue to wear a mask personally when I think it’s appropriate, but that is a personal choice that every Ohioan should have the liberty to make, which is why we must also end government mask mandates. We must get our people back to work, support our small businesses, get our children in school and protect individual liberty to get our state fully reopened."

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The push by both Mandel and Timken comes a day after the Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi repealed their mask mandates and lifted COVID-19 restrictions to allow businesses to operate a full capacity. Abbott and Reeves pointed to increasing vaccine supplies and economic concerns as they ignored federal government warnings.

While coronavirus restrictions in Ohio have been loosed a bit recently – a statewide curfew order expired last month and sporting event capacity was increased earlier this week – it doesn’t appear that DeWine will follow the lead of Texas and Mississippi.

"We intend on keeping the mask mandate," DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said. "We're still relatively early in our vaccination process. ... We've got a bit to go."

"The governor does not intend to lift that [mask mandate] because we still need to protect Ohioans who have not had the opportunity to get the vaccine yet," Tierney added.

Mandel, in taking aim at DeWine, argued, "What’s happened here in Ohio and unfortunately across the country that you had power-hungry governors and bureaucrats who took the big hand of government and infringed on the freedoms and liberties of everyday Ohioans and Americans."

And he charged that "Gov. DeWine’s shutdown tactics have trampled on the freedoms and liberties of moms, days, and small business owners, throughout the state."

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Asked by Fox News if he was concerned that quickly lifting the coronavirus restricts could lead to a renewed spike in COVID infections, Mandel said, "The science does not prove that out. The math does not prove that out. My top priority is stand up for the freedom and liberties for Ohioans and Americans."

The coronavirus restrictions implemented in Ohio have been very unpopular with many on the right.

Timken, in her statement, didn’t target DeWine, who’s running next year for reelection. She instead spotlighted in her statement that "Ohio has led the way and done better than many other states in tackling the pandemic."

Mandel and Timken are far from the only conservative political figures in Ohio to call for a lifting of the restrictions.

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Longtime Rep. Jim Jordan, who briefly mulled a 2022 Senate run, took to Twitter on Wednesday to ask "Texas is open. Mississippi is open. When will Ohio do the same?"

Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report

Paul Steinhauser Fox News