(AP) — “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance won Ohio’s contentious and hyper-competitive GOP Senate primary on Tuesday, buoyed by Donald Trump’s endorsement in a race that was an early test of the former president’s hold on his party as the midterm season kicks into high gear.
A onetime staunch critic of Trump whose 2016 memoir about his Appalachian childhood lifted him to fame, Vance spent much of the campaign behind in the polls. But a late-stage endorsement from Trump pushed him to frontrunner status and the two men downplayed Vance’s past scathing criticism of the former president, with Vance saying he was wrong.
In accepting the GOP nomination, Vance struck a unifying tone, complimenting his rivals — including silencing boos for his most bitter opponent, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel — and pledging to appeal to the state’s many moderates headed into November after an exceptionally bitter campaign that, at one point, saw two candidates nearly come to blows on a debate stage“Now this campaign, I really think, was a referendum on what kind of a Republican Party we want, and what kind of a country we want,” Vance told the crowd.
He now faces Democrat Tim Ryan in the general election race to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman. The 10-term Democratic congressman, who easily won his three-way primary Tuesday night, will likely have an uphill climb in a state Trump won twice by an 8-point margin. In a potential warning sign for Ryan, roughly twice as many Republicans participated in the primary than Democrats.
Meanwhile, Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine secured his party’s nomination for a second term and will take on Democrat Nan Whaley.
In neighboring Indiana, incumbent Republicans in the state House fended off primary challengers who wanted to push the Legislature further to the right. Among the roughly two dozen so-called liberty candidates in Republican legislative races, one defeated a 10-term incumbent in northern Indiana, while a leader of the movement lost his primary race.
Tuesday’s contests ushered in a more competitive phase of the midterm primary season, with closely watched races in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia scheduled for later this month. The election will culminate in November, when control of Congress, governor’s mansions and key elections offices are at stake.