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Trump-backed JD Vance wins tumultuous Senate GOP primary showdown in Ohio

CINCINNATI – JD Vance, the venture capitalist and bestselling author who less than three weeks ago landed former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in Ohio’s crowded, combustible and expensive Republican Senate primary, has won his party’s nomination.

The Associated Press projected Vance’s victory a little more than two hours after polls closed at 7:30 pm ET. Ohio and the neighboring Midwestern state of Indiana held both primary elections on Tuesday, kicking off a frenetic schedule this month, with a total of 13 states holding primaries. 

Vance’s win is also seen as a victory for the former president, as Trump’s position as the Republican Party’s most popular and influential politician was on the line even though the former president wasn’t on the ballot.

 

In his victory speech at his primary night headquarters in Cincinnati, Vance gave a major nod to Trump, saying “I have absolutely got to thank the 45th President of the United States.”

Vance will face off in November against longtime Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine won renomination over multiple primary challengers from the right.

But the GOP primary in the showdown to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman was the contest that grabbed national attention.

Republican Senate nominee JD Vance speaks to supporters after winning a contentious and expensive primary, in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 3, 2022.

Republican Senate nominee JD Vance speaks to supporters after winning a contentious and expensive primary, in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 3, 2022.
(Tyler Olson/Fox News )

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The race for well over a year had been a battle among the major contenders to land the endorsement of Trump, who 15 months removed from the White House remains a GOP primary kingmaker as he repeatedly flirts with another presidential run.

As the leading candidates tried to one-up each other in showcasing their support and loyalty to Trump, the nomination battle turned increasingly antagonistic. Things got so heated that two leading contenders – 2018 Ohio Republican Senate candidate Mike Gibbons, a Cleveland entrepreneur, real estate developer and investment banker, and former Ohio treasurer and former two-time Senate candidate Josh Mandel – nearly came to blows at a debate.

Senate candidate JD Vance greets former President Donald Trump at a rally Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Delaware, Ohio.

Senate candidate JD Vance greets former President Donald Trump at a rally Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Delaware, Ohio.
(AP Photo/Joe Maiorana, File)

Trump stayed neutral until a few weeks ago, when he endorsed Vance. While the former president’s backing – and an ensuing Trump/Vance rally in Ohio a week and a half ago – helped Vance surge in the polls, the race remained competitive, with plenty of voters undecided as primary day neared.

TRUMP’S GRIP OVER GOP ON THE LINE IN MAY’S PRIMARY BATTLES

Also among the leading contenders for the Republican nomination were state Sen. Matt Dolan, a former county prosecutor and state assistant attorney general and one of the co-owners of Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians, and former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken.

Minutes after Vance’s victory was projected, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich told Fox News that “JD Vance put in tremendous work and has immense political talent—which put him in the position to earn the support of President Trump.

“It was the endorsement of President Donald J. Trump that took a candidate who many insiders said was in 4th and at single digits in the polls, and in only two weeks, propelled him into a commanding first-place finish.,” Budowich said. “The power of President Trump’s endorsement is undeniable, his dominance over the Republican power brokers in D.C. cannot be overstated, and the promise of this MAGA Movement will not just define the Midterms, but it will win for years to come.”

Vance will face off in November’s general election against Ryan, who has long represented a district in northeastern Ohio, in what will be a battle of two populist politicians. Ryan has promoted policies popular with working-class voters during his years in Congress and during an unsuccessful bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Rep. Tim Ryan answers a question during the U.S. Senate Democratic primary debate on March 28, 2022, in Wilberforce, Ohio.

Rep. Tim Ryan answers a question during the U.S. Senate Democratic primary debate on March 28, 2022, in Wilberforce, Ohio.
(Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, Pool)

DeWine, a former two-term senator who later served eight years as state attorney general before winning the governorship in 2018, faced multiple primary challenges from the right as he seeks a second term steering Ohio. 

DeWine is fairly popular in the state but angered many on the right over the restrictions he implemented at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 

MAY MADNESS: PRIMARY SEASON IGNITES IN EARNEST 

While Trump has criticized DeWine in the past, he did not endorse former Rep. Jim Renacci, a Trump ally, or Joe Blystone, the two candidates challenging the governor.

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a news briefing at John Glenn International Airport in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 18, 2020.

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a news briefing at John Glenn International Airport in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 18, 2020.
(AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins, File)

The Democratic gubernatorial primary was a battle of former mayors – John Cranley of Cincinnati and Nan Whaley of Dayton, a battle won by Whaley.

There were also a handful of consequential congressional primaries, with most of the action on the Republican side.

But the Democratic primary in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District’s grabbed national attention, thanks to a rare and last-minute endorsement by President Biden.

The president backed now-Rep. Shontel Brown, who last August defeated former state Sen. Nina Turner by five points in special election Democratic primary to fill the vacant deep-blue seat.

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This year’s primary was a rematch – and was once again a test of the Democratic Party’s moderate and progressive wings. And Brown once again was victorious, with the AP projecting that she won renomination.

There won’t be any primary runoffs, because in Ohio the candidate grabbing the highest number of votes wins the contest even if that candidate does not secure an outright majority of the votes cast. 

Tyler Olson covers politics for Fox News Digital. You can contact him at tyler.olson@fox.com and follow him on Twitter at @TylerOlson1791.

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