CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio Republicans are pledging to show that the swing state is still Trump country, and the president is cheering them on while getting return fire on Twitter from a Barack Obama appointee seeking the state’s governorship.
Primary voters on Tuesday picked a congressman backed by President Donald Trump to be the GOP nominee against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who faced no primary opposition in his bid for a third term.
“Ohio is a Trump state,” U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci told supporters. “Ohio is going to move forward with the Trump agenda, and Ohio is going to get anybody who is an obstacle, including Sen. Brown, out of the way.”
In the race to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. John Kasich, voters set up a fall contest between Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray. Both DeWine and Cordray won spirited primaries with at least 60 percent of the vote each.
DeWine’s victory came after a hard-hitting primary campaign in which Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor called him a “phony conservative” and he called her unqualified.
Trump, who scored a decisive victory in Ohio over Hillary Clinton in 2016 after Obama carried the state twice, sent a congratulatory Tweet on Wednesday for DeWine, a former U.S. senator. He said DeWine will be “a great governor with a heavy focus” on health care and jobs, dismissing Cordray as a “Socialist opponent” who was “a big failure in his last job.”
Cordray, who served as the federal consumer watchdog under Obama, retorted on Twitter, saying: “Very telling that you think $12 billion back to 30 million consumers is a failure …. I never backed down from you or Wall Street. All your name calling won’t stop me from fighting those who want to cheat Ohio families.”
Cordray handily defeated former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who ran to his left on an anti-gun, pro-environment platform to finish a distant second in a six-candidate field. Cordray was backed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a frequent Trump target.
Cordray pledged Tuesday night to focus the race on “kitchen-table issues.” It won’t be his first match against DeWine, who unseated him as state attorney general in 2010.
In the GOP Senate race, Renacci emerged victorious with 47 percent of the vote. He urged Republicans to unite after a five-way primary that saw investment banker Mike Gibbons sue Renacci for allegedly defamatory campaign statements including that Gibbons was anti-Trump. Gibbons raised funds for Trump’s presidential campaign.
Brown, the Democratic incumbent, has long been tough on trade, and he praised Trump’s moves this year to raise tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. His career in Ohio politics spans more than four decades.
Ohioans also overwhelmingly approved a measure to reform congressional redistricting.
The new rules, which will take effect with 2021 maps, were modeled after new map-making rules for Ohio legislative districts that voters strongly supported in 2016. So-called Issue 1 won 75 percent of the statewide vote.
Aimed at curbing partisan gerrymandering, the rules will limit how counties are split into multiple districts and will require more support from the minority party to put a 10-year map in place. If lawmakers can’t agree, an existing bipartisan commission will take over. If that fails, the majority party can pass a shorter-term map.
Four-term Republican state Rep. Robert Sprague, of Findlay, won the GOP primary for state treasurer over former Ashtabula County Auditor Sandra O’Brien. He and former University of Cincinnati board chairman Rob Richardson Jr., a Democrat, will face off in November for the seat held by term-limited GOP Treasurer Josh Mandel.
Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor won a crowded Democratic primary for the central Ohio congressional seat formerly held by Republican Pat Tiberi, while state Sen. Troy Balderson won the crowded Republican primary.
Several incumbent congressmen who faced competitive GOP primaries all won.
Former Ohio State University football star Anthony Gonzalez won the Republican nomination to succeed Renacci in Ohio’s U.S. House District 16 following a three-way contest in which state Rep. Christina Hagan aligned herself closely with Trump’s agenda. Gonzalez agrees with such Trump positions as building a border wall. He will face medical sales businesswoman Susan Moran Palmer, who won the six-candidate Democratic primary.
In central Ohio, political newcomer Rick Neal, a former international relief worker backed by Sen. Brown, won the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers.