By Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Two special U.S. congressional elections on Tuesday to fill vacant seats in Ohio reflect splits in both the Republican and Democratic parties, with a Trumpish Republican and a leftist Democrat battling mainstream candidates in party strongholds. The competition in Ohio’s traditionally Republican 15th District south of Columbus will be a […]
U.S. congressional elections in Ohio test Trump clout, progressive influence
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Two special U.S. congressional elections on Tuesday to fill vacant seats in Ohio reflect splits in both the Republican and Democratic parties, with a Trumpish Republican and a leftist Democrat battling mainstream candidates in party strongholds.
The competition in Ohio’s traditionally Republican 15th District south of Columbus will be a fresh measure of former President Donald Trump’s clout in the Republican Party, coming just a week after a Trump-backed candidate for Congress suffered a surprise loss to a fellow Republican in north Texas.
“It’s a beautiful morning to get out and vote! Please join President Trump in supporting me today,” Trump’s favored candidate, coal lobbyist Mike Carey, tweeted on Tuesday.
A separate contest in northeast Ohio’s 11th District, a Democratic enclave, will test whether a progressive who last year compared voting for Democratic President Joe Biden to eating excrement, can be the party’s nominee for Congress.
Winners of the 15th District Republican primary and the 11th District Democratic primary are expected to also win their general election races in November. The two seats were left vacant after former Republican Representative Steve Stivers’ resigned and former Democratic Representative Marcia Fudge’s became Biden’s housing secretary.
Democrats currently have a narrow 220-212 majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Carey casts himself in the Trump mold. “No industry has been as targeted by the left wing liberal elites, the fake news, as the coal industry,” Carey told a June rally headlined by the former president.
An independent fundraising committee backed by Trump has spent over $400,000 on text messages, digital and TV ads for Carey, federal election records show. This includes over $3,000 spent Monday and Tuesday on calls urging Carey supporters to cast their ballots.
Carey is one of eleven Republicans seeking the party’s nomination, including Jeff LaRe, a state representative and former deputy sheriff who is backed by Stivers.
A political neophyte, Carey has virtually no visibility among voters, said Ohio State University professor emeritus Paul Beck.
“There is a very good chance that it (Trump’s endorsement) will not be enough,” Beck said. “If Carey loses, it will be another repudiation of Trump in the GOP primaries, where it counts.”
SANDERS, CLINTON WEIGH IN
In northeast Ohio’s Cleveland-based 11th District, meanwhile, the Democratic Party’s schisms are on full display.
Nina Turner, who co-chaired progressive Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, is battling a more establishment candidate endorsed by Hillary Clinton, the centrist who beat Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
Sanders as well as his fellow progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have campaigned for Turner, 53.
“I know her to be one of the strongest fighters for justice that I’ve ever met in my life,” Sanders told WKYC in Cleveland.
Clinton and other Democratic establishment figures, including House Majority Whip James Clyburn, are backing Shontel Brown, 46, a member of the Cuyahoga County Council. Both the leading candidates are Black.
There are 11 other contenders, and candidates have raised over $6 million, making it the most expensive special House election this year, according to OpenSecrets.org, the website for the Center for Responsive Politics.
Brown emphasizes her support for Biden’s administration, and Brown’s supporters are highlighting Turner’s past criticism of the president.
“Establishment Democrats likely feel that Brown would be more a team player and reliable vote for leadership than Turner, whereas progressives see Turner as someone who could help pull the Democratic House caucus a bit more to the left,” said Kyle Kondik, an election analyst at the University of Virginia.
(Additional reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Sonya Hepinstall)