Crypto Fan Won Ohio Senate Primary That Could Alter the Industry's U.S. Destiny

Bernie Moreno will be the Republican nominee for Senate in Ohio, facing Sen. Sherrod Brown in this year's general election.

AccessTimeIconMar 20, 2024 at 2:26 a.m. UTC
Updated Mar 20, 2024 at 2:28 a.m. UTC
  • The Republican primary win of blockchain businessman Bernie Moreno in Ohio has set up the congressional race to watch for the crypto industry.
  • Moreno will face off in the general election against crypto doubter Sen. Sherrod Brown, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee who has been a legislative roadblock for digital assets regulation.

Ohio's U.S. Senate race may be the biggest congressional contest this year for the crypto industry, now pitting a digital assets booster against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the sitting Senate Banking Committee chairman who has stood in the way of the development of regulatory legislation.

Bernie Moreno, an Ohio businessman and crypto enthusiast who founded a blockchain startup that focuses on property titles, won the Republican nomination Tuesday in the battleground state where Brown has previously held his ground, despite most of its statewide offices being held by Republicans. Moreno carried the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who is again his party's standard-bearer in the presidential election.

Brown has been a vocal critic of the digital assets sector, especially the frauds and company implosions that have cost consumers money. He's expressed some interest in moving legislation that would deal with the illicit use of crypto, but not yet in bills that would set up rules of the road for the industry.

If Brown loses, it not only changes the leadership of the committee, but it may also change the party with majority status in the Senate. In this session, the Senate has teetered at a 50-50 split that's broken to the Democrats' benefit by the vice president. It only takes one seat to shift and grant Republicans the majority, which would also give the party control of all the chairs (and the agendas) of the committees that would need to pass crypto bills.

Moreno had a complication arise in recent days when the Associated Press reported an account on a casual-sex meetup website was linked to an email address belonging to Moreno, though a past intern reportedly said he'd created it as a joke account. However, Moreno's primary result was a dominant win among Ohio Republicans, with 50% of the vote in a three-candidate race, according to preliminary results with more than 70% of precincts reporting.

While the crypto industry is flooding millions of dollars into congressional races across the country, it hasn't gone after Brown other than with targeted campaigning on crypto matters.

Primary votes also took place Tuesday in Illinois, Florida and Arizona, where candidates battled for the vacated seat of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) – one of those responsible for the crypto taxation provision that made it into an infrastructure law and is generally loathed by the industry. Important states New York and Pennsylvania are set to vote next month as the primaries continue into September.

The presidential candidates from both parties have already won sufficient delegates to win their parties' nominations.

For the crypto industry, the person who occupies the White House next year will have hiring and firing power over key government officials, including the chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the secretary of the Treasury. But the majorities and the committee leaderships in Congress may be just as important as lawmakers close in on the legislation that will govern how the U.S. digital assets sector operates.

Edited by Nikhilesh De.


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Jesse Hamilton

Jesse Hamilton is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for global policy and regulation. He doesn't hold any crypto.