He’s Running for Senate With an Immigrant’s Origin Story. Here’s the Rest.

He’s running for the Senate in Ohio as an immigrant that made it. His story is one of a young boy from Colombia who took a chance on a struggling company, turned it around, and became a multi-millionaire.

Bernie Moreno is a Republican who runs against Senator Sherrod brown under Donald J. Trump’s populist political movement. He calls himself “a car guy from Cleveland”, and humbly recounts his humble childhood when his immigrant parents started from scratch.

In 2023, Mr. Moreno made his trademark pitch: “We came with nothing — we were here legally — and we all lived in a 2-bedroom apartment.” He has stated that his father “had left everything behind” when he recalled what he calls the “lower middle-class status” of his family.

There is a lot that Moreno doesn’t say about his past, his upbringing, and his powerful ties to the country in which he was raised.

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Mr. Moreno is a member of a wealthy and well-connected family from Bogota. Some members still enjoy wealth and high status.

Some of his siblings returned to Colombia after his parents moved in 1971. One of his siblings served as Bogota’s ambassador to the United States. One of his brothers founded a construction and development empire that spans the Andes, from Colombia’s interior to the Caribbean coasts.

Candidates for office who are seeking their first term must engage in a calculated self-creation process. They carefully examine their past, deciding on what to emphasize and what to minimize. They decide what to explain, and in some cases what they don’t want anyone to know. It is important to make sure that voters find as many things relatable as possible and as few as possible alienating or difficult to understand.

The way Mr. Moreno has framed his bio — and the material he’s omitted — reflects a keen understanding of the political realities in the Trump-era Republican Party in Ohio and in a competition with the rumpled, Democrat Mr. Brown (a Yale-educated doctor’s son) who has managed to survive in an increasingly red State by holding himself up as a champion for the working class.

A candidate from South America might seem out of place in an Ohio that has been hit hard by globalization and the decline in heavy manufacturing. Instead, Mr. Moreno describes his 2005 bet on a small Mercedes-Benz dealership in Cleveland’s West Side. He turned what could have been a liability when courting the working-class — a wealth of assets worth up to $105.7 millions and an income close to $6 million per year — into proof that he was a hard worker and had entrepreneurial street smarts.

It is a powerful political autobiography in a state that has seen Republican success in recent years due to the migration of former steel town in Northeast Ohio, coal belt in Appalachia, and heavy industries in Northern Ohio towards Mr. Trump. His journey is also good for the G.O.P. as it increases its appeal to Latinos and first-generation immigrants who are looking to make a better living.

The Morenos’ story, however, is not typical of an immigrant in America.

Roberto Moreno is one of the candidates’ brothers and president and CEO of Amarilo Holdings in Bogota, a large development and construction conglomerate.

After serving as Colombia’s Ambassador to the United States for a number of years, another brother, Luis Alberto Moreno was appointed president of the Inter-American Development Bank by George W. Bush and his administration. His large circle of friends reflects a bipartisan and internationalist outlook that has little in common to the Trumpist worldview. They include the music impresario Quincy Jones as well as the actress Salma Hayek. Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, and Tom Daschle (former Democratic Senate majority leader) are among the many friends he has.

The Morenos’ immigration story is also atypical, in that the Morenos were not strangers in the country at the time of their arrival: Bernardo Moreno Sr. had studied gastroenterology and earned a Master’s in Surgery, as well as completed his residency, all at the University of Pennsylvania where Bernie Moreno was born. His mother Marta Moreno had a Stanford degree.

Dr. Moreno was Colombia’s equivalent to the country’s secretary of health. He and his wife shared what Bernie Moreno called considerable generational wealth: multiple properties and farms, servants and staff, as well as a prominent house in Bogota that later became the residence of the German ambassador.

Roberto Moreno revealed that their father worked as a doctor for Misael Pastrana Borrero from 1970 to 1974. He also treated Dorita Salive who was the wife of industrialist Romulo Lara. This fostered the relationship between the Lara family, which is rich and powerful, and the Morenos.

The Morenos were not the richest family of Colombia, but their connections made them one of the most powerful. The South American elite is familiar with their story about emigrating from Colombia to the United States.

Federico Gomez Lara is the editor-in-chief of Cambio Colombia magazine, which covers current affairs and politics. He is also the grandson of Dorita Salaive. “They leave Colombia simply because they can afford to do so. They see Colombia as a village, and want their children educated and to mingle with real rich people.

Roberto Moreno, Bernie Moreno’s brother, said in a recent interview with Patricia Lara Salive (Mr. Gomez’s mother, and heiress of one of Colombia’s biggest fortunes), that his parents intended to remain in Florida for a short time while their children learned English. However, Dr. Moreno’s rapid rise at Holy Cross Hospital, Fort Lauderdale, along with their daughter’s marriage to a US citizen, led them to change their minds.

Roberto Moreno cited his mother’s words: “I want my kids to learn English and to get to know another cultural,” Roberto Moreno said. “Let’s spend a few days in Florida.”

Roberto Moreno who studied engineering at University of Florida added, “A while was meant to be one or even two years.” Their father, however, joined them four months later and passed the medical board exam to practice medicine in Florida. “So we stayed.”

As a candidate, Mr. Moreno often speaks of the two-bedroom apartment that his parents, their children, and he first occupied in Florida.