Live Updates | Voters to decide heated Ohio Senate primary
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republicans in Ohio were voting Tuesday in one of the most controversial and closely watched polls US Senate primaries, deciding a race seen as an early referendum on former President Donald Trump’s sway over the GOP as a midterm primary season goes into high gear.
Meanwhile, polls have closed in neighboring Indiana, where more than a dozen State House members are trying to hold off key Republican challengers who want to push the Legislature further to the right.
In Ohio, author and venture capitalist JD Vance is considered the favorite in the Republican race to replace incumbent Senator Rob Portman after receiving late stage backing from Trumpcapping a bitter and costly contest that at one point saw two contestants almost come to blows on a debate stage. The winner will likely face 10-term Democratic Rep. Tim Ryanwho distanced himself from the progressive wing of his party ahead of what is expected to be a difficult year for Democrats seeking to retain their majorities in Congress.
Incumbent Republican Governor Mike DeWine appears on track to secure his party’s nomination for another term, despite conservative backlash over COVID-19 shutdowns and mandates.
Tuesday marks the first multi-state contest of the 2022 campaign and comes the day after a draft opinion from the US Supreme Court was leaked this suggests the court may be on the verge of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade who legalized abortion nationwide. Such a move could have a dramatic impact on the course of the midterm elections, when control of Congress, governors’ mansions and key election offices hangs in the balance.
The primaries also serve as a clarifying test of Trump‘s influence in his party. A victory for Vance will likely encourage Trump to continue asserting himself in the primary campaigns ahead of another possible presidential election. A setback, however, would raise questions about whether GOP voters are looking for a new leadership, especially in a state it has won twice by 8 percentage point margins.
At the Strongsville Library in suburban Cleveland, George Clark, 84, said he voted for Vance based on Trump’s endorsement.
“I know he got bad press, but I know he’s Conservative and I always vote Conservative.” said Clark.
But Joanne Mondak, 71, said she voted for State Sen. Matt Dolan, the only major candidate not to aggressively woo Trump. The rest of the field, she said, are “cakes” that are “too Trump.”
Trump reminded voters in Ohio on Tuesday of his stake in the race.
Calling on a radio show from Columbus, Trump praised all the candidates for the GOP nomination, but said he chose to endorse Vance despite his past criticism of Trump because he believed he was in the best position to win the seat in November.
Vance was trailing in the polls until the former president endorsed the “Hillbilly Elegy” author and former Trump critic in a contest that largely revolved around him. While the timing of Trump’s endorsement — less than three weeks before Election Day and with early voting already underway — may have dampened its impact, it was a blow for the former treasurer of Ohio Josh Mandel, Cleveland investment banker Mike Gibbons and former Ohio Republican. President Jane Timken, who had gone to great lengths to woo Trump and his constituents.
The race will also be the most expensive in state history, with more than $66 million spent on television and radio, according to Columbus-based company Medium Buying.
Ohio, once a flagship state, is now staunchly Republican, posing a challenge for Ryan, who is heavily favored to win his three-way Democratic primary against progressive Morgan Harper, a former consumer protection lawyer, and the Columbus activist and tech executive Traci Johnson. The longtime congressman and 2020 presidential candidate shaped himself into a blue-collar crusader fighting for working families as he campaigned dressed in sweatshirts and baseball caps.
Driven by historical trends and that of Democratic President Joe Biden deep unpopularity, Republicans are optimistic about the resumption of the House and Senate in November. A new president’s party almost always loses seats in subsequent midterm elections, and Republicans are hoping that soaring inflation, high energy prices and lingering frustrations over the country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will further strengthen their prospects.
Democrats, meanwhile, are banking on the GOP — with Trump’s help — to elect candidates so extreme they will prove ineligible in November. A Supreme Court ruling on abortion could also galvanize mainstream Democratic voters.
“By all rights, history tells us the Democrats are going to lose control of the House,” said Dale Butland, a Democratic strategist from Ohio. “By all rights, we should also lose control of the Senate. However, the only thing that could save us is if the Republicans nominate a bunch of extreme right-wing lunatics who are unacceptable in a general election.
While DeWine is well positioned to win a second term, he is expected to face considerable conservative backlash for the aggressive COVID-19 mandates he imposed in the first year of the pandemic.
On the Democratic side, Nan Whaley, the former mayor of Dayton, is in the running to become Ohio’s first elected female governor in her race against former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley. Whaley has the support of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, a popular name and the state’s top Democrat. Cranley has the backing of feminist icon Gloria Steinem.
Colvin reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Patrick Orsagas in Columbus, Steve Peoples in New York and Mark Gillispie in Strongsville, Ohio contributed to this report.
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