COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tuesday brings to an end an Ohio primary election that has been so contentious it nearly brought a pair of Republican U.S. Senate candidates to fisticuffs on the debate stage earlier this year.
Buckeye State voters will choose which major party candidates will advance to the general election to compete for the seat Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, will vacate when his term ends next year, along with a handful of statewide offices and 15 congressional seats.
Ohio is one of two states holding its primary on Tuesday. Indiana is the other.
Vance, Mandel, Trump: A noisy Senate primary
The crowded Republican Senate primary in Ohio has produced some of the most tense moments of the 2022 midterms so far. In March, two candidates had to be separated on a debate stage, and for months the competition for former President Donald Trump’s endorsement produced stinging ads.
The sprint to the finish brought a flurry of outside surrogates to Ohio in the run-up to polls opening Tuesday.
After landing Trump’s backing in the Senate race, venture capitalist and author J.D. Vance saw reinforcements in Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz and Josh Hawley join him on the campaign trail over the weekend.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, went on a barnstorming tour with former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who is running to join Cruz in the Senate.
‘Rough and tumble politics’:Senate primary in Ohio shows shifting tone among GOP candidates
Here are the races to monitor and what you should know about Tuesday’s Ohio primaries.
Ohio’s U.S. Senate primary
The power of Trump’s endorsement will be on the ballot in the GOP primary for Ohio’s Senate seat. Trump has wide support in Ohio, where he won by eight points in both 2016 and 2020.
Trump selected Vance – a favorite of his son, Donald Trump Jr. – from among a handful of candidates who spent the better part of a year competing for his support.
Vance has been surging in the polls since Trump’s endorsement in mid-April (even though Trump fumbled his name in Nebraska), but Mandel’s support has largely held steady right behind him. Vance has led in both a Fox News and Emerson College poll conducted after the endorsement. Support for financier Mike Gibbons and ex-Ohio GOP chairman Jane Timken, Portman’s pick to succeed him, appeared to be fading, those polls showed.
Ohio GOP Senate primary:Candidates play on Trumpiness without Trump
But state Sen. Matt Dolan, whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, has gained some steam. Dolan did not seek Trump’s endorsement and has drawn the former president’s ire. Trump has released multiple statements criticizing Dolan, including for his family’s decision to change the name of their baseball team from the Indians to the Guardians.
Two lesser-known candidates – Mark Pukita and Neil Patel – also will be on the Republican ballot.
The field of candidates and their supporters have spent months hammering one another, none more visible than the feud simmering between Trump and Club for Growth. Club for Growth, which is supporting Mandel, released an ad that questioned Trump’s decision to endorse Vance.
During a campaign stop in Delaware, Ohio, last month, Trump said he thought Vance had the best chance to beat Rep. Tim Ryan, who is running for the Democratic nomination.
Ryan is competing against attorney Morgan Harper and tech executive Traci Johnson.
The Cook Political Report rates the Ohio Senate seat as “leans Republican.”
Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine faces a primary challenge on Tuesday from former Congressman Jim Renacci.
DeWine was once a national darling with skyrocketing approval ratings as he took steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 during the earliest days of the pandemic, but he has faced a backlash at home from those who sought to curb his power.
Farmer Joe Blystone and former state Rep. Ron Hood also are challenging DeWine for the GOP nomination.
When DeWine acknowledged President Joe Biden’s election in 2020, Trump hinted at a primary challenge for the sitting governor, saying it would be “hotly contested.” But Trump hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the race.
The few polls done on the race have shown DeWine, who has a large fundraising advantage, in the lead.
On the Democratic side of the ticket, a pair of former mayors is running for their party’s nomination: former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and ex-Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley.
Cleveland-area congressional seat
Little drama is expected in Ohio’s congressional primaries, but the Cleveland area’s 11th District features a Democratic Party rematch from a 2021 special election with some national significance.
Rep. Shontel Brown, a Democrat, is running for reelection after winning the 2021 special election to replace Marcia Fudge, who left Congress for a post as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Brown faces a primary challenge from Nina Turner, a former state senator who co-chaired Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Brown defeated Turner in the 2021 special election.
National surrogates have gotten involved in the race. President Joe Biden endorsed Brown, and Sanders again backed Turner. Congressional Black Caucus members have taken issue with Turner for her attacks on Biden and other lawmakers, including Rep. James Clyburn, of South Carolina.
Members of the caucus, including Clyburn, visited Cleveland to support Brown in the final weekend of the campaign. New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the Democratic Caucus, and Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams, president of the freshman class of the House Democratic Caucus, also campaigned for Brown.
“She doesn’t go around insulting people. She goes around reaching out,’’ said Clyburn, who spoke at Mount Olive Baptist Church, Brown’s home church. “She goes around trying to do what is necessary to be a good neighbor.”
Indiana congressional seats
Nine Republicans and three Democrats are vying for Indiana’s only open congressional seat, the 9th District represented by Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, a Republican.
In the state’s 1st Congressional District, seven Republicans are running for the chance to unseat freshman Rep. Frank Mrvan, a Democrat. Long a Democratic stronghold, political analysts have recently moved the race from “likely Democratic” to “leans Democratic.”
Among Indiana’s current congressional delegation, only Mrvan, Greg Pence and André Carson face primary challenges.
Contributing: Deborah Barfield Berry, Indianapolis Star reporter Kaitlin Lange