Steve May 2, 2022
us-midterms-2022-:-what-to-watch-in-ohio,-indiana-primaries

Published On 2 May 2022

The first multi-state contest of the United States 2022 midterm election season unfolds on Tuesday, as Ohio voters pick nominees for governor and the US Senate while Indiana voters consider whether their legislature should become even more conservative.

The races, particularly in Ohio, could provide a fresh window into former President Donald Trump’s sway among the party faithful. He has been especially involved in Ohio’s Senate primary, which has been marred by Republican divisions, along with campaigns for the US House and secretary of state.

For Democrats, a potential threat to incumbent US Representative Shontel Brown in Cleveland is of keen interest. Brown is locked in a rematch against progressive challenger Nina Turner, a former state senator and ally of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Turner is trying again after losing to Brown in last year’s special election.

What to watch as the Ohio and Indiana primaries unfold:

Republican Senate candidate JD Vance points his finger in the air as he speaks at a rally.
Republican Senate candidate JD Vance was backed by former President Donald Trump [Joe Maiorana/AP Photo]

Who will survive Ohio’s nasty Senate primary?

Seven candidates are on the ballot in Tuesday’s Republican face-off for the coveted open US Senate seat of retiring Republican Rob Portman. They are Trump-endorsed author JD Vance, former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, Cleveland investment banker Mike Gibbons, former Ohio Republican Chair Jane Timken, state Senator Matt Dolan, whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, and entrepreneurs Mark Pukita and Neil Patel.

The campaign has featured months of jockeying among top contenders for Trump’s endorsement, more than $65m in TV and radio spending, dozens of debates and candidate forums, and one highly publicised physical confrontation between two candidates.

Whoever prevails will face the winner of a three-way Democratic primary between 10-term US Representative Tim Ryan, former consumer protection attorney Morgan Harper and Columbus activist and tech exec Traci Johnson.

U.S. Senate Republican candidate Mike Gibbons gives a response during Ohio's U.S. Senate Republican Primary debate.
Ohio US Senate Republican candidate Mike Gibbons could be a spoiler for Trump’s plans in Ohio [Joshua A Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch via AP pool]

Is a Trump endorsement a slam dunk in Ohio?

Trump twice won Ohio by more than 8 percentage points, so many viewed getting his nod in the Senate race as critical to winning the crowded Senate primary. Instead, when he finally chose Vance, it divided the state.

That’s because Vance opponents, including Mandel, Gibbons, and their allies, had aired months of ads highlighting Vance’s past anti-Trump statements. Some tea party Republicans protested an April 23 Trump rally featuring Vance, and one conservative group, Ohio Value Voters, urged its supporters to boycott — or boo — Vance when he walked on stage. The deep-pocketed Club for Growth, a conservative group backing Mandel, has taken to TV with ads directly attacking Trump for his choice.

Trump also has backed candidates in two Republican congressional primaries: Max Miller, his former White House and campaign aide, and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Nan Whaley, former Mayor of Dayton, running for Ohio governor, speaks to reporters following a debate against Democrat John Cranley at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio
Nan Whaley, former Mayor of Dayton, running for Ohio governor, speaks to reporters following a debate against John Cranley at Central State University in March [Aaron Doster/AP Photo]

Will a woman break through in Ohio’s race for governor?

Democrat Nan Whaley is seeking to be the first woman in Ohio to get a major party’s nomination for governor. The former Dayton mayor is locked in a tight race with ex-Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, who is endorsed by feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

They see eye to eye on most major issues — guns, abortion rights, social justice — but Whaley has repeatedly pointed out that Cranley only recently said he supported abortion rights. She has the backing of the state’s top Democrat, US Senator Sherrod Brown.

Will confusion over Ohio’s primary calendar affect results?

A protracted battle over Ohio’s congressional and legislative maps has played havoc with the state’s 2022 election calendar. For a long time, it looked like the May 3 primary would not go forward amid all the legal wrangling. Then suddenly it did.

Voter advocates, campaigns and political parties have stepped up efforts to get the word out as participation in early voting showed a 40 percent decline from four years ago.

Is Indiana’s legislature conservative enough?

More than a dozen Indiana House members are trying to hold off Republican primary challengers who argue they have not been aggressive enough on attempting to ban abortion, or overturning COVID-19 restrictions that were ordered by the state’s Republican governor.

The challengers are tapping into frustration among conservative voters and want to push the state legislature further to the right in Indiana, where Republicans control all statewide offices and have had legislative supermajorities for the past decade.

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