COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Mike Carey, a coal lobbyist backed by former President Donald Trump, beat a bevy of Republicans in central Ohio in the 15th Congressional District primary, while Cuyahoga County Council member Shontel Brown pulled out a victory for the Democratic establishment in Cleveland, in a pair of primary elections for open House seats Tuesday.
In Fayette County in the 15th Congressional District, State Senator Bob Peterson (District 17), a county native, received 58.64% of the vote in the Republican primary with 370 total. Carey received 151, Ron Hood tallied 36, Ruth Edmonds received 25, Jeff LaRe received 22, Thomas Hwang garnered 17, Stephanie Kunze and Omar Tarazi had three, John Adams received two votes, and Eric M. Clark and Thad Cooperrider had one apiece.
In the Democratic primary in Fayette County, Allison Russo received 29 votes and Greg Betts received six.
“It went very smooth, but was a long day,” Fayette County Board of Elections Board Member Robin Beekman said on Wednesday. “There weren’t very many that turned out to vote that were eligible to vote. There are over 3,000 eligible voters and we had 666 turn out to vote.”
The board of elections is now looking toward the next election as they come together this month and will — at that time — approve who will be on the Nov. 2 General Election ballot.
“There are trustees, school board members, city council, fiscal clerks—there is going to be a whole lot on the ballot in November,” Beekman said. “We will approve who is on the ballot on Aug. 16 when we meet. There will be a lot on the ballot, so hopefully people will come out and vote.”
Finally, Beekman said that anyone who is interested in being a poll worker for the board of elections should consider it for the upcoming election season.
“Anyone who wants to be a poll worker, we would love to have you come out,” Beekman said. “Submit your name to the board of elections, go through training. We always need poll workers.”
In total throughout the district, Carey received 18,655 (37 percent) votes while Peterson received 6,356 (13 percent) votes. Peterson was beat out by both Hood with 6,632 votes and LaRe with 6,724 despite being in second as of press time on Tuesday night. The rest of the results from the primary included Edmonds with 5,052 votes, Hwang with 2,480 votes, Kunze with 2,344 votes, Cooperrider with 1,061 votes, Tarazi with 899 votes, Adams with 172 votes and Clark with 81 votes.
“I want to congratulate my fellow competitors in this race and especially convey my support for Mike Carey as our party’s nominee for the general election in November,” Peterson said on Wednesday. “I will do everything I can to make sure we restore a Republican congressional majority that will fire Nancy Pelosi as speaker and stop the radical agenda of the Biden administration. I am incredibly grateful and humbled by the support we received throughout this primary election especially from Fayette County. From day one, we built a grassroots campaign that took us to all 12 counties over thousands of miles and to hundreds of homes, churches, businesses, farms, festivals, and community gatherings. Along the way, we won the endorsement of more than 150 local leaders I will never forget the words of encouragement and the stories of patriotism and passion that we heard from so many people in these short few months. They have renewed my hope for the future of this great nation. I have had the great privilege of representing more of the 15th congressional district than any other candidate in the race, and I look forward to returning to that work in the State Senate on behalf of those constituents.”
In the Democrat Primary within the 15th district, Russo received 13,585 (84 percent) votes while Betts received 2,545 (16 percent) votes.
The special elections were both viewed as a measure of voters’ influences, though low turnout and huge candidate fields complicated interpreting the results too broadly. In both races, party leaders showed they still held sway.
Carey’s race reinforced Trump’s status as GOP kingmaker, particularly after the former president’s preferred candidate lost a special election in Texas last week. Brown’s primary win over progressive Nina Turner handed another blow to a liberal wing that has been challenging the Democratic old guard with a more confrontational style.
Turner, a leading national voice for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns, was for many months the best known and most visible among 13 Democrats running in the fiercely fought primary and the choice of Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others.
But Brown, a centrist backed by Hillary Clinton, influential House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the Congressional Black Caucus, leading unions and many local leaders, prevailed after a surge in national attention to her campaign in the weeks leading up to the election.
In the heavily Democratic 11th Congressional District, she is strongly favored in the Nov. 2 general election over Laverne Gore, a business owner, consultant, trainer and community activist who won the Republican nomination.
In her victory speech, Brown said she has not sought “headlines or attention” in her nine years as a local legislator, but effectiveness and making headway.
“Things I’ve done haven’t gotten a lot of attention. They’re not sexy,” she said. “But I don’t need the credit. I just need to make sure the people I have been called to serve are getting the resources they need. I’m not about lip service. I’m about public service.”
Turner said she knew the campaign would be an uphill battle.
“While we didn’t cross the river, we inspired thousands to dream bigger and expect more,” she said in a Twitter statement. “We couldn’t overcome the influence of dark money, but we left our mark on OH11 and this nation.”
The race came at a pivotal moment for the progressive movement. Centrists have been ascendant in the early months of the President Joe Biden era, while the party’s left flank has faced a series of defeats — in New York City’s mayoral race, a Virginia gubernatorial primary and a Louisiana House race.
Meanwhile, a contingent of moderates are worried that a leftward drift could cost the party seats in the next year’s midterm elections. Biden hasn’t heeded the left’s calls for more aggressive action on such issues as voting rights and immigration.
That’s left progressive leaders searching for new strategies that can bolster its influence. Turner would have added another voice to those efforts, but Brown successfully used her history of biting criticism of fellow Democrats — she once likened supporting Biden to being forced to eat excrement — against her.
The political newcomer Carey defeated a crowd of other Republican candidates in his Columbus-area race, including some with establishment backing and experience in state politics.
He’ll take on Democratic state Rep. Allison Russo, a health policy consultant who won the Democratic nomination, in the GOP-leaning 15th Congressional District this fall.
Trump quickly celebrated Carey’s win Tuesday in a statement.
”Thank you to Ohio and all of our wonderful American patriots,” he said. “Congratulations to Mike and his family. He will never let you down!”
Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown tweeted congratulations to Russo, pledging to”get to work to elect a champion for Ohio working families this November.”
The GOP result was a blow to former U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, a moderate Republican who retired from the seat in May and endorsed state Rep. Jeff LaRe, a security executive with law enforcement experience, in the race.
But Stivers pledged he’d support Carey this fall and LaRe called for Republican to “all work together to keep central Ohio red for decades to come.”
Tuesday’s results come as recent polling shows Democrats are generally upbeat about their party’s future and the job Biden is doing, while the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll reflected widespread unease among Republicans over everything from the direction of the country to the state of American democracy and Biden’s performance. Most want Trump to have at least some influence over their party’s future direction.
All of the candidates in the Columbus-area GOP primary billed themselves as conservatives and many boasted more legislative-branch experience than Carey, including LaRe, state Sens. Bob Peterson and Stephanie Kunze and former state Rep. Ron Hood. In the end, they divided the vote and left Carey with only about 37% of the vote to win.
By contrast, with nearly all votes counted, more than 94% of votes in the Cleveland-area 11th District voted for either Brown and Turner, dividing the rest among the other 11 candidates.