The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)

Primary takeaways: Trump passes test as kingmaker in Ohio

- By Nicholas Riccardi

The primary elections in Ohio and Indiana on Tuesday stood as the first real test of former President Donald Trump’s status as the Republican Party kingmaker — and he passed.

Takeaways from the races:


Trump’s chosen candidate, “Hillbilly Elegy” author and one-time investment banker JD Vance, won the crowded Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Ohio, giving Trump a strong beginning to primary season.

Vance, former State Treasurer Josh Mandel, businessma­n Mike Gibbons and former state GOP chair Jane Timken all vied for Trump’s endorsemen­t, increasing­ly adopting language that mirrored the former president’s bombastic, populist style. In the end, Trump went with Vance, who in 2016 said the celebrity businessma­n could become “America’s Hitler” but has since become an avid supporter.

Vance wooed the former president by echoing his bashing of immigrants, skepticism about U.S. military involvemen­t overseas — even in support of Ukraine — and lies about Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. Lagging in the polls when he received Trump’s endorsemen­t three weeks ago, Vance made it a centerpiec­e of his closing pitch and vaulted ahead of his rivals.

Vance will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan in November’s general election as they compete for the seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. Trump won Ohio by 8 percentage points in 2020, and the state has swung to the right under his influence. Replacing Portman, a traditiona­l Republican and no fan of Trump’s, with Vance would move the Senate further in the former president’s direction.


Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Frank Larose, easily survived a primary challenge from John Adams, who denies that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and ran as a full-throated skeptic of modern voting systems.

But Ohio’s Republican primary still shows the power that Trump’s election lies have on his party’s base. An AP-NORC poll last year found two-thirds of Republican­s believe Biden was not legitimate­ly elected, even though the contest was free of any significan­t voter fraud and repeated investigat­ions, audits and court cases have disproved Trump’s claims.

Larose initially said the 2020 election was secure and accurate, but as the primary neared, he began to echo some of Trump’s talking points. He claimed there were problems in other states and touted his office’s work to combat voter fraud.

Trump endorsed Larose, a longtime supporter. Since Ohio wasn’t a battlegrou­nd and Trump won the state easily, the incumbent secretary of state never got on his bad side in the days after he 2020 loss.

In contrast, in swing state Michigan — one of the states Trump claimed to win in 2020, even though he actually lost it — Trump endorsed an election conspiracy theorist, Kristina Karamo. She won the GOP nomination for secretary of state last month. Plenty of other Trump-backed election deniers are competing in upcoming Republican primaries.


Trump and his populist supporters have shaken up their party and pushed its incumbents in Trump’s direction in many places, but one weak point so far are governor’s mansions.

Ohio was the clearest example of that. Trump castigated Republican Gov. Mike Dewine for his strict coronaviru­s policies in 2020, but Dewine cruised to victory in the primary. He will face Democrat Nan Whaley in the general election. Whaley, the former mayor of Dayton, is the first woman nominated by a major party for Ohio governor.

Ohio is not the only place where a GOP governor is well positioned against a primary challenger. Idaho’s Brad Little has a strong fundraisin­g advantage against his conservati­ve opponent, Lt. Gov. Janice Mcgeachin. In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp is a strong favorite against former Sen. David Perdue, whom Trump recruited to punish Kemp for not supporting his election lies and for certifying Biden’s victory in the state.

Governors are helped by their incumbency, the wide range of popular conservati­ve policies they can announce and federal coronaviru­s relief that has taken the pressure off state budgets. Dewine, for example, outraised his foes by millions of dollars and was able to benefit from, for example, the chip firm Intel’s announceme­nt it will invest $20 million in the state.

Dewine got another boost because his opposition was split between former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and farmer Joe Blystone. Trump didn’t make an endorsemen­t in the race.


In the Cleveland area, Democratic Rep. Shontel Brown trounced former state Sen. Nina Turner in yet another battle between the party’s establishm­ent and progressiv­e wings.

Turner co-chaired Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidenti­al primary campaign and lost to Brown in last year’s special election for the seat after its previous occupant, Marcia Fudge, became Biden’s secretary of Housing and Urban Developmen­t. Turner ran again, hoping that the district might be more amenable to her approach after it was redrawn to include more Democratic areas.

No such luck. Brown’s easy victory is a reminder that the left has a very uneven track record in Democratic primaries, notching a few high-profile wins like that of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-cortez in New York City, but mostly a long string of losses.

Trump may have changed Republican primaries, but Democratic ones still tilt toward the same establishm­ent that has run the party for decades.


Legislativ­e races in Indiana showed the power of incumbency, even amid rising conservati­ve anger.

Activists infuriated by the state’s coronaviru­s restrictio­ns organized roughly two dozen socalled liberty candidates to take on lawmakers in the GOP primary whom they saw as too supportive of Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s public health measures. The picture was mixed on Tuesday night, with several of those races uncalled.

But the challenger­s were repeatedly coming up short taking on incumbent legislator­s. One incumbent targeted as too close to the party establishm­ent lost his primary, but so did an incumbent who encouraged the liberty candidates. And in at least 10 other races, the liberty candidates fell short.

It’s a reminder that, even in Trump’s GOP, conservati­ve insurgents don’t always have an easy path against incumbents.

 ?? AP PHOTO/AARON DOSTER ?? Republican Senate candidate JD Vance speaks to his supporters during an election night watch party, Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Cincinnati.
AP PHOTO/AARON DOSTER Republican Senate candidate JD Vance speaks to his supporters during an election night watch party, Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Cincinnati.
 ?? AP PHOTO/PAUL VERNON ?? Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine talks with reporters outside of his polling place after voting in Cedarville, Ohio, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
AP PHOTO/PAUL VERNON Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine talks with reporters outside of his polling place after voting in Cedarville, Ohio, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

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