Julie Carr Smyth

COLUMBUS: Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel says that as a U.S. senator he would focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs” and fight any attempts by the Republican establishment to make social issues a distraction.

The 33-year-old candidate said during an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that he believes all elected leaders should be focused on the economy.

“Whether someone is running for president of the United States, U.S. senator, state representative or dog catcher, the focus of elected leaders today should be on job creation and sustainable economic growth,” he said.

Dubbed an “absentee treasurer” by his critics, Mandel said he’s improved the financial performance of Ohio’s treasury while trimming its budget. He’s also missed every meeting of the powerful Board of Deposit that he chairs.

Mandel is favored to win a six-way GOP primary Tuesday whose winner will face Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in November.

Mandel said he plans to finally make his Senate bid official Thursday at the Akron Press Club. He has raised some $4 million already toward the campaign.

Mandel said he’s running because Ohioans of all political persuasions have told him they want to see a “Washington outsider with fresh ideas” in the Capitol.

Mandel said he has the “backbone” to challenge leaders of both parties — pointing to times as a Lyndhurst city councilman and state representative when he bucked the GOP and went his own way.

“My backbone comes from two places: my grandparents and the Marine Corps,” he said, referencing his two tours in Iraq and relatives including a grandfather who survived the Holocaust.

Mandel declined to discuss his positions on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage or gun control.

“We can deal with all that next year, or in the future,” he said. “As a U.S. senator I will stand up to the heads and the most powerful Republicans in the country and tell them that their focus needs to be on jobs and the economy first and foremost.”

Democrats have painted Mandel as “shoulder to shoulder with the far-right wing of his party.” They note his endorsement by the Senate Conservatives Fund, which calls Mandel a “full-spectrum conservative” who believes in limited government, family values, and a growth-limiting balanced budget amendment at the federal level.

“He is also 100% pro-life, supports traditional marriage, and will defend our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” the group said in launching a fundraising push on Mandel’s behalf.