COLUMBUS, Ohio – Democratic U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown beat former state Sen. Nina Turner for the second time since last summer, easily prevailing in an Ohio primary billed nationally as a key showdown between the party’s more moderate establishment and its activist progressive wing.
Brown, who had campaigned with South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the most senior Black member of Congress, and as a strong ally to President Joe Biden's domestic agenda, had topped Turner in July's special election primary — and did so again Tuesday. The president called Brown on Tuesday night to congratulate her on the victory and released a statement on Wednesday calling her win “an important step forward."
Primaries in Ohio and the neighboring, Rust Belt state of Indiana helped kick into high gear a midterm season that will see Democrats attempt to defend their razor-thin congressional majorities this November.
A former Democratic Party county chair, Brown has only been in Congress a matter of months but came into the rematch with the power of incumbency. Turner, a leading surrogate for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, was endorsed by the Vermont senator and top progressive groups, which had hoped for a second-try upset.
The Cleveland district where Brown and Turner squared off is heavily African American and solidly Democratic, making Brown heavily favored to retain her seat in November’s general election. Our Revolution, the activist group that grew out of Sanders’ first presidential run, says it devoted 150 volunteers toward boosting Turner in the race, while the pro-Israeli Democratic political organization DMFI PAC announced spending more than $1 million for Brown.
“During Rep. Brown’s five short months in Congress, she has proven to be a tenacious advocate for the people of her district and a fierce fighter for the Democratic agenda and our party’s values," DMFI PAC President Mark Mellman said in a statement. “Ohio Democrats sent a clear message that they want candidates who seek to unite the party.”
Turner tweeted a video of her chanting loudly with supporters, “We gon’ be alright.” She told them that was her enduring message to the progressive movement.
Elsewhere, Republican Rep. Warren Davidson turned back a primary challenge from Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich, son of the famous doctor known for the anti-choking maneuver. Davidson had been endorsed by former President Donald Trump — whose backing helped author JD Vance win the much-watched GOP primary for Ohio's open Senate seat on Tuesday — while Heimlich had criticized the former president.
Trump's support proved valuable in other House primaries in Ohio as well.
Former Trump aide Max Miller locked up the Republican nomination in a new district in the northeastern part of the state despite being accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.
Meanwhile, the Akron-area district where another Trump pick, conservative commentator Madison Gilbert won the Republican nomination, should be one of the likely competitive House seats in November's general election. She'll face state Rep. Emilia Sykes, a former Ohio House Democratic leader and a daughter of a powerful political family in the area.
Conservative activist group FreedomWorks for America vowed that Gilbert would get Congress "out from under the thumb of radical Leftists.”
“Gilbert is the real deal, a fact that Ohioans have echoed with their votes tonight," Noah Wall, FreedomWorks for America executive director, said in a statement. "We are excited to continue mobilizing our grassroots army on Gilbert’s behalf as she heads into the general election.”
Another tough congressional race could be coming to Cincinnati in November, when Republican Rep. Steve Chabot will face Democratic Cincinnati City Council member Greg Landsman.
Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the longest-serving woman in the state House, has held her seat since 1983 and was unopposed in her primary Tuesday. Trump devotee J.R. Majewski will face her in November.
Majewski, a political newcomer, parlayed praise he won from Trump on Twitter into a political win over two sitting Republican state lawmakers. “Thank you to J.R. Majewski, a great Air Force Veteran and Trump Supporter who did a beautiful job of turning his lawn into a giant Trump Sign," Trump tweeted in July 2020.
Kaptur, a popular Democrat in her hometown of Toledo, faces one of her toughest general election battles this fall due to redistricting. Ohio’s 9th Congressional District, which hugs the Lake Erie coast around Toledo, is now considered a political toss-up under new Republican-drawn boundaries approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission.
In Indiana, former state Sen. Erin Houchin topped eight other Republicans, including former U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel, for the party's nomination in the state's only open House seat and will be heavily favored in November. GOP Rep. Trey Hollingsworth isn’t seeking reelection in his southern Indiana district as he hints at running for governor in 2024.
Weissert reported from Washington.