Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans-Issue 21 (May 5, 2022)

Welcome to The Heart of the Primaries, Republican Edition

May 5, 2022

In this issue: Takeaways from Ohio’s and Indiana’s primary elections and Manchin’s pro-McKinley ad in WV-02

May 3 primary results roundup

Ohio and Indiana held primary elections on Tuesday. Indiana’s ballot included state legislative elections, while Ohio’s did not, as redistricting is still underway. Below, you’ll find results from marquee GOP primaries, takeaways, and info on incumbents who lost primaries.

The big story of the night: Vance wins U.S. Senate primary in Ohio 

Ohio U.S. Senate: J.D. Vance won Ohio’s U.S. Senate primary with 32% of the vote. Josh Mandel was second with 24%, and Matt Dolan finished third with 23%. Four other candidates ran. 

Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Vance in mid-April. Independent polling available before that, from late February and early March, showed Mandel and Mike Gibbons leading. Four of the five candidates with the most votes—except Dolan—campaigned on connections to and support for Trump. 

Incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R) is retiring.

Other marquee primary results

U.S. House

  • Indiana’s 9th: In the state’s only open House district, Erin Houchin defeated eight other candidates with 37% of the vote. Mike Sodrel was second with 26%. Incumbent Trey Hollingsworth (R) didn’t seek re-election. Three forecasters rate the district Safe or Solid Republican.
  • Ohio’s 9th: J.R. Majewski won with 36% of the vote. Craig Riedel was second with 31%. Incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) was first elected in 1982 and is seeking re-election. This is a Toss-up district in race ratings.
  • Ohio’s 13th: Madison Gesiotto Gilbert defeated six other candidates with 29% of the vote. Gregory Wheeler was second with 23%. Gilbert worked on Trump’s 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. Incumbent Tim Ryan (D) is running for U.S. Senate. This is a Toss-up or Tilt Republican district in ratings.

State executive

  • Ohio Governor: Incumbent Mike DeWine won with 48%. Jim Renacci was second with 28%. DeWine’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was an issue in the race. Renacci said DeWine overreacted with restrictions, while DeWine said he acted in the best interest of Ohioans.
  • Ohio Secretary of State: Incumbent Frank LaRose defeated John Adams 65% to 35%.

Defeated incumbents

U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (OH-07) was the only Republican congressional incumbent to (technically) lose in Tuesday’s primaries. Gibbs announced on April 6 that he wasn’t running for re-election. But because Gibbs already qualified, he remained on the primary ballot.

In Indiana, six GOP state legislators—five representatives and one senator—lost primaries. 

  • Three Republican incumbents—one in the Indiana Senate and two in the Indiana House—were defeated in incumbent-on-incumbent primaries resulting from redistricting. 
  • Three Republican incumbents in the state House lost to non-incumbent challengers.

In 2020, one Indiana GOP legislator—a state representative—lost in a primary. In 2018, two GOP incumbents—a state senator and a representative—lost primaries.

The following shows data from 14 states for which we have post-filing deadline information and from two states—Texas and Indiana—where state legislative elections have taken place.

Media analysis

Media analysis following the May 3 GOP primaries has largely focused on Trump’s influence in Ohio. We present a few perspectives on that below, in addition to a takeaway from Indiana’s state legislative races.

Politico‘s David Siders and Adam Wren said Vance’s victory was a victory for Trump and that Dolan’s performance did not suggest good prospects for non-Trump-aligned candidates in 2024: 

People in Trump’s orbit are preparing for his dominion over the GOP to take a hit in primaries scheduled for later this month. The candidates he’s supporting for governor in Georgia and Idaho are both running far behind more establishment-minded incumbents, and several other Trump-endorsed candidates are in toss-up races. Trump isn’t likely to win them all.

But J.D. Vance’s victory in the Ohio Senate primary on Tuesday was an unmistakable victory for Trump. Unlike in the Texas primaries, where the former president backed a raft of successful Republicans — but mostly made safe choices — Trump took a risk on Vance.

With Vance, Mandel, Timken and Gibbons clobbering each other over who was the Trumpiest, Dolan, who distanced himself from Trump, appeared to have space open to him with a non-MAGA hardliner crowd.

But he didn’t win. Or even come close. …

Dolan isn’t a pure test of the anti-Trump Republican. He was a supporter of Trump, after all, voting twice for the former president. But it’s the closest thing we’ve seen this election cycle to a different prototype for 2024 — and it ended poorly for the candidate tied least tightly to Trump.

CNN said that Ohio’s Senate primary result attests to Trump’s endorsement power in open primaries:

Vance’s victory underscored the former President’s role as the kingmaker in the Republican Party. Though it’s not clear whether Trump will succeed in his effort to oust incumbent Republicans he believes have wronged him, Ohio’s results demonstrated that in open-seat races, his endorsement might be the most important factor.

ABC News’ Brittany Shepherd said DeWine’s win was slightly unfavorable for Trump:

Incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine, who rose in popularity after imposing more aggressive coronavirus restrictions in his state, won the Republican bid for reelection and defeated Trump-affiliated candidate Jim Renacci (who was endorsed by Trump in 2018, when Renacci ran and lost a Senate bid.) DeWine’s win means a slight loss for the former president, who suggested DeWine needed to be primaried for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Even though Trump steered clear of a formal endorsement, his apparent disdain for the incumbent governor is no secret and his opponents differed little from Trump in campaign talking points, which calls into question the lasting power of Trump’s influence.

The Associated Press‘ Tom Davies and Casey Smith said Indiana state legislative candidates frustrated over COVID-19 restrictions and other issues performed poorly on Tuesday:

Frustrated Indiana conservatives fell short in most primary races Tuesday in their drive to push the Republican-controlled state Legislature further to the right, and two of the movement’s leaders lost their reelection bids.

The roughly two dozen so-called liberty candidates saw only a few victories in Republican legislative races across the state, with one defeating a 10-term incumbent in northern Indiana and two others winning nominations for GOP-leaning open seats.

A few races remained uncalled late Tuesday, but more than 10 incumbent lawmakers overcame challenges from candidates who argued that the Legislature hasn’t been aggressive enough in attempting to ban abortion, enhancing gun rights and overturning COVID-19 restrictions that were ordered by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.

McKinley ad features Manchin support in WV-02

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) appeared in an ad defending Rep. David McKinley (R) against criticisms from Rep. Alex Mooney (R). McKinley and Mooney are running in the GOP primary for the state’s redrawn 2nd Congressional District.

Manchin said, “For Alex Mooney and his out-of-state supporters to suggest David McKinley supported Build Back Better is an outright lie. David McKinley has always opposed reckless spending because it doesn’t make sense for West Virginia.”

Mooney said Republicans who voted for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act “paved the way for Democrats to pass President Biden’s socialist Build Back Better plan.” McKinley was one of 13 Republican House members who voted for the infrastructure bill.

Manchin said in December that he would not support the Build Back Better Act.

West Virginia lost a congressional district after the 2020 census. According to Daily Kos data, McKinley currently represents 66% of the new 2nd District’s population and Mooney currently represents 34%.

Along with Manchin, McKinley’s supporters include Gov. Jim Justice (R), former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R), and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Mooney’s endorsers include former President Trump, the House Freedom Fund, and Club for Growth PAC.

(In Ohio’s U.S. Senate primary, Trump and the Club for Growth backed different candidates—the Club endorsed Mandel, whereas Trump backed Vance.)

West Virginia’s primaries are on May 10.

Michigan GOP committee member resigns over state party endorsements

Tony Daunt resigned as a state GOP committee member days after the party’s endorsement convention. 

Daunt said in his resignation letter that the “feckless, cowardly party ‘leaders’ have made the election here in Michigan a test of who is the most cravenly loyal to Donald Trump and relitigating the results of the 2020 cycle.”

The party endorsed Kristina Karamo for secretary of state and Matt DePerno for attorney general. Both candidates have questioned the results of the 2020 election and have endorsements from Trump. In the second round of voting at the convention, DePerno got 54% to former state House Speaker Tom Leonard’s 46%. Karamo got 67% in the first round, followed by state Rep. Beau LaFave’s 19% and Chesterfield Township Clerk Cindy Berry’s 13%.

Daunt serves on the Michigan Board of State Canvassers. He previously served as logistics director for the state party and as executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, a nonprofit with funding from the DeVos family.

After the convention, state party chairman Ron Weiser said, “We’re coming out united and ready to move forward and win in the fall.”

Michigan is a Democratic triplex, meaning its governor, secretary of state, and attorney general are all Democrats.

The primaries are Aug. 2.

Trump defends Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster against accusations of sexual assault 

We wrote a couple of weeks ago that Nebraska state Sen. Julie Slama (R) and seven other women accused gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster of sexual assault. The Nebraska Examiner first published the allegations on April 14. 

Former President Trump, who endorsed Herbster in October 2021, spoke at a rally for Herbster in Greenwood, Nebraska, on May 1. Trump said, “Charles is a fine man and he is innocent of these despicable charges, by the way Charles welcome to politics. … These are malicious charges to derail him long enough that the election can go by before the proper defense can be put forward.” 

Herbster filed a defamation lawsuit against Slama on April 22. Herbster said, “As set forth in my lawsuit, the false accusations and attacks on my character are part of a greater scheme calculated to try and defeat my candidacy.” 

Slama countersued Herbster for sexual battery on April 25. Slama’s attorney said, “We will not permit Charles Herbster to file a frivolous, bad faith lawsuit that purports to cast doubt on Senator Slama’s account of her sexual assault, use his national media megaphone to herald the existence of that lawsuit for his own gain, but then take no steps to actually serve it and subject himself to the legal accountability such service would trigger.” 

On April 26, the Herbster campaign released an ad that said, “Clarence Thomas. Then Brett Kavanaugh. Lies stacked up to ruin them. Now [gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen] and [incumbent Gov. Pete Ricketts] are doing it to Charles W. Herbster. The facts? Herbster’s accuser was employed by Ricketts. Her husband and sister? Ricketts gave them jobs too. And even after the supposed incident, she kept contacting Herbster. Texts, calls, meetings, even invited Herbster to her destination wedding. Jim Pillen’s attack on Herbster: built on lies.” 

Slama’s attorney said the ad “promotes a far-ranging conspiracy theory that other people are behind well-corroborated reports of sexual assault and harassment of 8 women and at least 3 on-the-record witness accounts.” 

Days before Herbster released the ad, Ricketts said, “It is ridiculous to suggest that I or anyone else conspired to talk eight women and even more witnesses to make up stories about Charles Herbster. … It’s just not plausible.” In January, Ricketts endorsed Pillen in the May 10 gubernatorial primary. 

Competitiveness data: South Dakota  

South Dakota’s filing deadline for congressional and state candidates was March 29.

We’ve crunched some numbers to see how competitive the primaries will be compared to recent election cycles.

South Dakota

Notes on how these figures were calculated:

  • Candidates per district: divides the total number of candidates by the number of districts holding elections.
  • Open districts: divides the number of districts without an incumbent running by the number of districts holding elections.
  • Contested primaries: divides the number of major party primaries by the number of possible primaries.
  • Incumbents in contested primaries: divides the number of incumbents in primaries by the number seeking re-election in the given election cycle.