By J.D. DAVIDSON
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — In what was called the first big test of former President Donald Trump’s political influence, J.D. Vance rode his late endorsement to a U.S. Senate primary win in Ohio on Tuesday.
Mr. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” received the former president’s endorsement in late April and was the projected winner by The Associated Press over a large field that included businessman Mike Gibbons, state Sen. Matt Dolan, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel and former head of the state GOP Jane Timken.
All election results are unofficial until certified.
The expensive and contentious race was highlighted when Mr. Gibbons and Mr. Mandel nearly came to blows on stage in a debate.
“This campaign, I really think, is a referendum on what kind of Republican Party we want and what kind of country we want,” Mr. Vance said.
Mr. Vance will face Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, who the AP declared the Democratic primary winner 30 minutes after polls closed, in November to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.
Rep. Ryan is a 10-term congressman. Metrics suggest he is an underdog, given that Tuesday’s primary attracted twice as many Republican voters, and Mr. Trump has twice won the state by an 8-point margin.
Sen. Portman, who announced in January he would not run again, had endorsed Ms. Timken.
Ms. Timken said Tuesday night Mr. Vance has her support.
“I am passionate about the future of this state and country, which is why Republicans must retake the Senate and the House in November to right the ship and put a check on Joe Biden’s disastrous policies,” Ms. Timken said in a statement. “I congratulate J.D. Vance and fully support him in November.”
Also on Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine was projected by AP to easily defeat three challengers in the Republican gubernatorial primary and will face Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley in November. Whaley was declared the winner by AP over former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley in the Democratic primary.
More people voted early in this primary than the most comparable Ohio primary in 2018 with 301,837 absentee ballots requested and 263,542 early votes cast statewide, according to LaRose.
There were no statewide issues on the ballot, and declared independents can’t vote in Ohio Democratic or Republican primaries.