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CINCINNATI – Polls have closed in Ohio, where a crowded, combustible, and expensive race for the GOP Senate nomination has grabbed national attention and is seen as test of former President Donald Trump’s continued grip over the Republican Party.
Voters in Ohio and the neighboring Midwestern state of Indiana are holding primary elections on Tuesday, kicking off a frenetic schedule this month, with a total of 13 states holding primaries.
Up for grabs in Ohio – the Democratic and Republican nominations for Senate, governor, and key congressional districts.
But the GOP primary showdown to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman is the contest in the spotlight.
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The race for well over a year had been a battle among the major contenders to land the endorsement of Trump, who more than 15 months removed from the White House remains the most popular and influential politician in the GOP.
As the leading candidates tried to one-up each other in showcasing their support and loyalty to Trump, the nomination battle turned increasingly antagonistic. Things got so heated that two leading contenders – 2018 Ohio Republican Senate candidate Mike Gibbons, a Cleveland entrepreneur, real estate developer and investment banker, and former Ohio treasurer and former two-time Senate candidate Josh Mandel – nearly came to blows at a debate.
Trump stayed neutral until a few weeks ago, when he endorsed venture capitalist and bestselling author J.D. Vance. While the former president’s backing – and an ensuing Trump/Vance rally in Ohio a week and a half ago – helped Vance surge in the polls, the race remained competitive, with plenty of voters undecided as primary day neared.
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Also among the leading contenders for the Republican nomination were state Sen. Matt Dolan, a former county prosecutor and state assistant attorney general and one of the co-owners of Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians, and former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken.
The winner of the GOP primary will likely face off in November’s general election against longtime Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of northeastern Ohio. Ryan is considered the favorite for the Democratic nomination.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine faces multiple primary challenges from the right as he seeks a second term steering Ohio.
DeWine is fairly popular in the state but angered many on the right over the restrictions he implemented at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. He is widely expected to win, though.
While Trump has criticized DeWine in the past, he did not make an endorsement in the gubernatorial primary.
The Democratic gubernatorial primary is a battle of former mayors – John Cranley of Cincinnati and Nan Whaley of Dayton.
There are also a handful of consequential congressional primaries, with most of the action on the Republican side.
But the Democratic primary in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District’s grabbing national attention, thanks to a rare and last-minute endorsement by President Biden.
The president is backing now-Rep. Shontel Brown, who last August defeated former state Sen. Nina Turner by five points in special election Democratic primary to fill the vacant deep-blue seat.
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This year’s primary is a rematch – and is once again a test of the Democratic Party’s moderate and progressive wings.