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

He is running for the Senate as an immigrant who made good, reaching out to Ohio voters with a stirring, only-in-America bootstraps story: arriving as a child from Colombia, taking a risk on a struggling business, and then turning it into a smashing success and himself into a millionaire 100 times over.

Running under the banner of Donald J. Trump’s populist political movement, Bernie Moreno, the Republican challenging Senator Sherrod Brown, humbly calls himself a “car guy from Cleveland” and recounts the modest circumstances of his childhood, when his immigrant family started over from scratch in the United States.

“We came here with absolutely nothing — we came here legally — but we came here, nine of us in a two-bedroom apartment,” Mr. Moreno said in 2023, in what became his signature pitch. His father “had to leave everything behind,” he has said, remembering what he called his family’s “lower-middle-class status.”

But there is much more that Mr. Moreno does not say about his background, his upbringing and his very powerful present-day ties in the country where he was born.

Mr. Moreno was born into a rich and politically connected family in Bogotá, a city that it never completely left behind, where some members continue to enjoy great wealth and status.

While his parents left Colombia in 1971 to start over in the United States, where Mr. Moreno fully transplanted, some of his siblings eventually returned. One of his brothers served as Bogotá’s ambassador to the United States. Another founded a development and construction empire that stretches across the Andes from the Colombian interior to its Caribbean shores.

Political candidates seeking office for the first time necessarily engage in a calculated process of self-creation, carefully sifting through their past and deciding what to emphasize, what to minimize, what to be ready to explain and, in many cases, what they hope no one will find out. Needless to say, it helps to give voters as much as possible to find relatable and as little as possible to find alienating or hard to understand.

For Mr. Moreno, the way he has framed his biography — and the material that he has omitted from the frame — reflects a keen awareness of the political reality in the Trump-era Republican Party, in Ohio, and in a contest with the rumpled Mr. Brown, a Democrat (and a doctor’s Yale-educated son) who has survived in an increasingly red state by holding himself out as a champion of the working class.

In an Ohio hit hard by economic globalization and the decline of heavy manufacturing, a candidate from the South American elite might feel like a stretch. Instead, Mr. Moreno describes how he bet his life savings in 2005 on a small, underperforming Mercedes-Benz dealership on Cleveland’s West Side, turning what could be a liability in courting the working class — fabulous wealth, with assets valued up to $105.7 million and yearly income nearing $6 million — into proof of his own hard work and entrepreneurial street smarts.

As such political autobiographies go, it is powerful in a state where Republican successes of late have come from the drift of former steel towns in Northeast Ohio, the coal belt of Appalachia and heavy industries of Northern Ohio toward Mr. Trump. For the broader G.O.P., his journey also bolsters the party’s appeal to Latino voters and to first-generation immigrants striving for a better life.

But the Morenos’ story is not a typical American immigrant’s tale.

Roberto Moreno, one of the candidate’s brothers, is president and chief executive of Amarilo Holdings, a major development and construction conglomerate in Bogotá.

Another brother, Luis Alberto Moreno, after serving as Colombia’s ambassador to the United States, was elected president of the Inter-American Development Bank with the backing of George W. Bush’s administration. His wide circle of friends speaks to a bipartisan, internationalist bent that shares little in common with the Trumpist worldview: It includes the music impresario Quincy Jones, the actress Salma Hayek, Bill and Hillary Clinton, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Tom Daschle, the former Democratic Senate majority leader.

The Morenos’ immigration narrative is also atypical in that they were not strangers to the country when they arrived: The candidate’s father, Bernardo Moreno Sr., had studied gastroenterology, earned a master’s degree in surgery and had done his medical residency all at the University of Pennsylvania, where Bernie Moreno’s eldest three siblings were born. His mother, Marta Moreno, had earned a degree from Stanford.

In Colombia, Dr. Moreno had been the country’s equivalent of the secretary of health, and he and his wife enjoyed what Bernie Moreno described as considerable generational wealth on both sides: multiple properties, farms, servants, staff and a house in Bogotá so prominent that it was later converted to the German ambassador’s residence.

Roberto Moreno said their father was a physician for the Colombian president, Misael Pastrana Borrero, from 1970 to 1974. He was also the doctor to Dorita Salive, wife of the industrialist Rómulo Lara Borrero, which fostered a relationship between the rich and powerful Lara family and the Morenos.

The Morenos weren’t the richest family in Colombia, but they were among the best connected. And their story of emigrating to the United States is familiar to the South American elite.

“Colombian millionaires don’t leave Colombia to live the American dream or to prevent their children from growing up with privileges,” said Federico Gómez Lara, editor in chief of Cambio Colombia, a magazine of current affairs and politics, and a grandson of Dorita Salive. “They leave Colombia because they have enough money to throw away. Colombia seems like a village to them, and they want their children to be educated and mingle with the real rich.”

In a friendly interview in Colombia earlier this year with the journalist Patricia Lara Salive, Mr. Gomez’s mother and the heiress to one of the nation’s largest fortunes, Bernie Moreno’s brother Roberto said that his parents had intended to stay in Florida only briefly while the children learned English, but Dr. Moreno’s rapid ascent at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, coupled with their daughter’s marriage to an American, changed their plans.

“I want my children to learn English and get to know another culture,” Roberto Moreno quoted his mother as saying. “Let’s go to Florida for a while.”

“A while was supposed to be one or two years,” added Roberto Moreno, who studied engineering at the University of Florida. But their father joined them after four months and took the medical board exams to practice medicine in Florida. “And so we stayed there.”

Mr. Moreno, as a candidate for office, speaks often of the cramped, two-bedroom apartment in Florida where his parents and their seven children first took up residence. That first home, purchased in 1971 with a mortgage worth more than $300,000 in today’s dollars, was a three-bedroom condominium in a new, 15-story high-rise on the ocean in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

Moreno campaign aides say he did not intend to leave the impression that he climbed from abject poverty, or that his family’s struggles were protracted. But, they said, the Morenos did face lean times. His campaign declined to make the candidate available for an interview.

Marta Moreno, a businesswoman, preceded her husband to the United States by several months, helping him secure an H1 visa, for highly skilled immigrants, in 1972. (Mr. Moreno’s campaign declined to say what visa Mrs. Moreno held before her husband joined her.) Her name was on the deed to the condominium, along with those of her mother, Tila de Obando, and her stepfather, Jorge Obando.

The building was advertised as having “300 feet of your own private beach,” a “wide deck for sunning,” a pool, a putting green and a sauna.

Within two months, Bernie Moreno’s step-grandfather had lent the family the money to move to a four-bedroom house in Pompano Beach with a pool on a canal, ocean access and a two-car garage.

Dr. Moreno got his medical license in late 1973 and was hired as a surgeon on Nov. 8 of that year. His daughter was engaged to an American in 1976.

“At first, our parents weren’t on the same page, as our father wanted to stay in Colombia,” explained Vicky Stockamore, Bernie Moreno’s older sister. “So while he was hopeful it would be a temporary move, our mother was committed that she wanted to raise her family here.”

Setting the memories of a 5-year-old aside, they said, the two-bedroom apartment of Mr. Moreno’s recollections had a third bedroom only in the generous parlance of a real-estate brochure. A floor plan showed an open room separated from the living room by an accordion door. Even the four-bedroom house was no lap of luxury for a family of nine.

The job of surgical assistant that Memorial Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., offered almost apologetically to Dr. Moreno as he studied for his Florida physician’s license paid $10,920 a year, or $80,440 today. That may not be poverty wages, but it is not a lot on which to raise seven children.

“He was making $5 an hour as a surgical assistant,” Mr. Moreno has told voters, accurately. “My mom would have us at the flea market, selling Colombian trinkets on Saturdays.”

Their mother believed in hard work, Roberto Moreno said. When he and his two older siblings wanted to buy a boat to water-ski, their mother made them save up for part of it. He bagged groceries, another brother delivered newspapers and sold vacuum cleaners, and their sister worked at a bank.

But by October 1973, Dr. Moreno, the candidate’s father, had re-established himself with full privileges as a South Florida surgeon. He was president of the medical staff at Holy Cross Hospital when Mr. Moreno was a teenager, chief of surgery by 1989 and a member of the board of governors of the American College of Surgeons. Marta Moreno quickly became a successful real estate agent.

“When we first arrived, it took a lot of hard work for our family to establish ourselves,” Ms. Stockamore said. “I couldn’t be more proud of how my mother and father both restarted their lives.”

In past interviews, Mr. Moreno has captured the contradictions of his childhood. In a podcast before his political career took off, he alluded to just how wealthy his family had been in Colombia and why his mother decided to give up that privilege.

“We were being raised in an entitled way, and she didn’t want us to be raised that way,” he said in the podcast. “So she packed up 23 suitcases, seven kids, and flew to Fort Lauderdale.”

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