Ohio primaries test Trump’s power over GOP, highlight Democratic divisions

(WASHINGTON) — Ohioans head to the polls Tuesday to vote in Democratic and Republican primaries, featuring multiple hotly contested races, including battles for governor, secretary of state and U.S. Senate.

The race to replace Sen. Rob Portman, who is retiring, features a crowded Republican primary in which former President Donald Trump’s endorsement powers will be tested.

In the GOP Senate primary, almost all the candidates have centered their campaigns around being a Trump conservative. But it was a “never-Trumper” turned Trump ally, J.D. Vance, who scored Trump’s coveted endorsement, upending the race.

In the days leading up to the Ohio primary, Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax group backing Republican candidate and former Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel, released an ad attacking Vance and questioning Trump’s endorsement of him.

The ad features previous comments from Vance criticizing Trump supporters by saying they voted for the former president for racist reasons.

Other notable Republicans vying for the nomination include Mike Gibbons, a wealthy businessman, Jane Timken, former chairwoman of the Ohio GOP, and Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan.

Unlike his opponents, Dolan has distanced himself from Trump, saying his campaign is focused on Ohioans and that Republicans focusing on the results of the 2020 election are taking the wrong approach.

On the other side of the aisle, three candidates are running in the House Democratic primary. Rep. Tim Ryan, who briefly ran for president in 2020 and has long represented the working class Youngstown area, is the clear frontrunner. The other candidates in the race are Traci Johnson and Morgan Harper.

In the GOP gubernatorial primary, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who is seeking a second term, is favored to win. He faces a spirited faceoff with members of his own party who were disappointed with his relatively strict response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republicans looking to replace DeWine include former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, former state Rep. Ron Hood and Joe Blystone, a farmer who jumped into the race. Trump has not endorsed in the contest, but Renacci has campaigned on Trumpism and has cited Trump’s support of him in 2018 during his failed campaign for Senate.

Ohio’s secretary of state race has received more attention than in previous election cycles. A greater focus has been placed on the top election position of overseeing and validating election results following the 2020 election. ​​Ohio GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose faces a primary challenger in John Adams. Adams has expressed unfounded doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election results, whereas LaRose has danced around the issue.

LaRose acknowledged President Joe Biden as the legitimate president, but his campaign borrows Trump’s rhetoric of “protecting elections,” and LaRose has campaigned on fighting voter fraud despite no evidence it is a widespread problem. Trump endorsed LaRose and is considered likely to win and continue on to the general election.

Multiple House races will play out throughout the state Tuesday but the rematch between Rep. Shontel Brown and Nina Turner for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District will be one of the most closely watched of the night. Brown was first elected in a special election following Marcia Fudge’s appointment to serve as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Brown and Turner’s rematch is viewed as a reflection of the divisions between the Democratic Party’s progressive and establishment wings. Progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont have endorsed Turner. Biden, however, endorsed Brown on Friday, calling her “an ardent advocate for the people of Ohio and a true partner in Congress.”

Turner and Brown approached the campaign trail from different ends of the Democratic political spectrum. Turner, a former co-chairwoman of Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, has heavily criticized the Democratic Party and Biden in the past and her previous loss to Brown was seen as a win for the Democratic establishment. On Monday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading left-wing voice, threw her support behind Turner.

Over 100,000 votes have already been cast statewide, and 182,000 absentee ballots had been requested as of the end of early voting on April 22, according to LaRose.

“As I’ve visited county boards of elections this month during early voting and spoken with voters, what I’ve seen firsthand are the high standards of accessibility and security which make our state a national model,” the secretary of state said in a statement reporting early voting numbers.

Due to an ongoing redistricting litigation battle still playing out in the state, Tuesday’s primary in Ohio will not feature legislative races for the state House or Senate. Voters will cast ballots for governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, U.S. House and U.S. Senate. A second primary will be held for legislative races, though no date has been set, according to LaRose’s office.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.