COLUMBUS, Ohio – Republican Mike Carey, a Trump-backed coal lobbyist, bested a two-term state lawmaker to win an open U.S. House seat in central Ohio on Tuesday, while Democrat Shontel Brown coasted to victory in a second up-for-grabs congressional district in the Cleveland area.
The election results will leave Democrats with a 221-213 advantage over Republicans in Congress, with Brown and Carey each retaining a seat for their respective party. A third open congressional seat in Florida, where primaries were being held Tuesday, also is very likely to remain status quo and in Democratic hands.
Carey, 50, defeated Democratic state Rep. Allison Russo, a public health policy consultant, in the 15th Congressional District, after the most competitive race there in years. The previous officeholder, Republican Steve Stivers, resigned in April to become CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce after a decade in Congress.
Carey told celebrants at a victory party Tuesday: “We have too many career politicians in Washington. That's the last thing that I will ever be.”
Brown, 46, a Cuyahoga County Council member who also chairs the county Democratic Party, won the Cleveland-area House seat formerly held by Marcia Fudge, who stepped down to become housing and urban development secretary in the Biden administration.
Brown defeated Republican Laverne Gore, a business owner and activist, in the heavily Democratic district that stretches from Cleveland to Akron. She said she is ready to get to work.
“I am committed to going to Washington as a unifier, and will work with President Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress to lead a swift health and economic recovery from the pandemic for Ohioans,” Brown said in a statement.
Both winners will fill the remainder of their predecessors' terms, which run until January 2023. They must face reelection again next year under a congressional map that's being redrawn to hold onto the seat.
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Carey, calling him a “courageous fighter” and visiting the state to campaign for him, as did former Vice President Mike Pence. Trump congratulated Carey in a statement Tuesday, saying he was proud to have endorsed him “early and strongly” and saying he would be “a great congressman!” President Joe Biden endorsed Russo, who raised more money in the district than any Democrat in history.
Brown’s election marks a win for establishment Democrats, who sought to defend the district against a takeover by progressives. Her backers included Hillary Clinton, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn and several labor unions.
But victory may be short-lived.
Already, Brown’s defeated primary opponent, progressive Nina Turner, has begun campaigning for the full congressional term up for grabs in 2022. A former state senator, she was a national mouthpiece for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bids and remains one of the progressive movement’s hardest-working congressional hopefuls.
In Florida, 11 Democrats were on the ballot in Tuesday's primary special election for the seat of Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died in April after suffering from pancreatic cancer. One of the candidates is state Rep. Omari Hardy, who was 3 years old when Hastings was elected in 1992. Hastings was the longest-serving member of Florida’s congressional delegation.
Republican Jason Mariner won the Republican nomination to run for the 20th Congressional District seat, but the district is heavily Democratic. The winner of the Democratic primary is considered a lock for January's general election, but results were too close to call Tuesday night after most of the votes had been counted in the South Florida district.
With nearly 99% of the vote counted, fewer than 100 votes separated the two leaders in a field of 11 Democrats. Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness and health care company CEO Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick led the crowded primary, each with nearly 24% of the vote.
The district is a majority Black and covers parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Associated Press writer Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report.