Midterms 2022: what to know about Ohio and Indiana primaries

All eyes on Ohio this week, where Trump-backed Senate candidate and 'Hillbilly Elegy' author JD Vance is polling ahead

Senate candidate JD Vance greets former president Donald Trump at a rally in Delaware, Ohio. AP

The first multi-state contest of the 2022 US 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 Congresswoman Shontel Brown in Cleveland is of keen interest.

She is locked in a rematch against progressive challenger Nina Turner, a former state senator and surrogate for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaigns. Ms Turner is trying again after losing to Ms Brown in last year's special election.

Voting in Ohio comes against the backdrop of a chaotic and still unresolved redistricting battle.

What to watch as the Ohio and Indiana primaries unfold:

Who will survive Ohio's nasty Senate primary?

Seven candidates are on the ballot in Tuesday's Republican faceoff for the coveted, open US Senate seat of retiring Republican Rob Portman. They are Trump-endorsed Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance, former Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel, Cleveland investment banker Mike Gibbons, former Ohio Republican chairwoman 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 Mr Trump's endorsement, more than $65 million in TV and radio spending, dozens of debates and candidate forums and a highly publicised physical confrontation between two candidates.

As Mr Vance rides high on Mr Trump's backing, other candidates who campaigned on their loyalty to the former president are hoping that heavy advertising spending or strong ground games can help them win.

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

Jane Timken, a Republican candidate for the US Senate in Ohio, greets people at a barbecue lunch in the state on Monday. AFP

Is a Trump endorsement a slam-dunk in Ohio?

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

That is because opponents, including Mr Mandel, Mr Gibbons and their allies, had aired months of adverts highlighting Mr Vance's past anti-Trump statements. In 2016, he called Mr Trump "noxious", "reprehensible" and an "idiot", according to the adverts.

Will a woman break through in Ohio's gubernatorial race?

Democrat Nan Whaley is seeking to be the first woman in Ohio to acquire 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 figure Gloria Steinem.

They see eye-to-eye on most major issues — guns, abortion rights, social justice — but Ms Whaley has repeatedly pointed out that Mr Cranley only recently said he was pro-choice. She also has the backing of the state's leading Democrat, US Senator Sherrod Brown.

Neither candidate is a household name across Ohio. Both have struggled to draw attention as much of the state is focused on the contentious US Senate race and continuing redistricting fight.

Is Indiana's legislature conservative enough?

More than a dozen Indiana House members are trying to hold off Republican primary challengers who argue that the Republican-dominated legislature has not been aggressive enough on issues from attempting to ban abortion to overturning Covid-19 restrictions that were ordered by the state’s Republican governor.

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

Whether the challengers can defeat incumbents backed by Republican leaders’ multimillion-dollar campaign fund should be answered in Tuesday’s primary.

- With the Associated Press

Updated: May 03, 2022, 5:06 AM
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