A night of drama in Ohio’s Senate primary

Plus: Why Scott Presler can’t work at the RNC

US Senate candidate Bernie Moreno, Republican of Ohio, speaks before Donald Trump takes the stage during a Buckeye Values PAC Rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on March 16, 2024 (Getty Images)
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Last night’s elections saw several narrow wins for candidates endorsed by Donald Trump, along with deep divisions in the Democratic Party over a race to helm one of the highest-profile state’s attorneys offices in the nation.One of the weirdest races of the cycle came to an end fairly quickly last night, with Bernie Moreno, the preferred choice of Donald Trump and much of MAGA world, carrying every county to win just above 50 percent in the Ohio Senate primary. The final days of the election were marred by a bizarre allegation from the Associated Press that Moreno had a male-seeking account on…

Last night’s elections saw several narrow wins for candidates endorsed by Donald Trump, along with deep divisions in the Democratic Party over a race to helm one of the highest-profile state’s attorneys offices in the nation.

One of the weirdest races of the cycle came to an end fairly quickly last night, with Bernie Moreno, the preferred choice of Donald Trump and much of MAGA world, carrying every county to win just above 50 percent in the Ohio Senate primary. 

The final days of the election were marred by a bizarre allegation from the Associated Press that Moreno had a male-seeking account on AdultFriendFinder, a website used mostly for casual hookups. Moreno is married to a woman and has children.  

The Ap story came about relatively late in the primary and was subject to serious scrutiny, including by the founder of the site, who “reviewed all the available information and it showed that the account had only a single visit, no activity, no profile photo, consistent with a prank or someone just checking out the site. That’s it.” In response to the AP, Moreno’s campaign had said a former staffer made the account as a joke. 

Moreno now faces incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown, a career politician who’s skated by against weak opponents since first winning in 2006.

It was a big night for Moreno’s whole family. Congressman Max Miller, Moreno’s son-in-law, was easily renominated for his seat but faces an interesting wrinkle with former Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich running as an Independent. Kucinich, who briefly served as RFK Jr. campaign manager, was recently spotted at CPAC, but is far more likely to draw votes from progressive Democrats than from Republicans. 

The GOP establishment got their picks in a series of downballot Ohio races, including in the chaotic primary to take on longtime Democratic congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. Republican J.R. Majewski, who lost a key race in the 2022 midterms, was cajoled into dropping out this time around by Speaker Mike Johnson and NRCC chair Richard Hudson. Forces led by the Congressional Leadership Fund spent over $750,000 instead backing State Representative Derrick Merrin, who was endorsed by Trump and beat a primary opponent supported by Ohio’s Jim Jordan. 

In the primaries for both the special election to finish out Congressman Bill Johnson’s term and to succeed him outright in January, State Senator Michael Rulli, who was backed by Defending Main Street, the super PAC that backs more moderate Republicans, won with a plurality.

The kookiest race was to succeed Republican Brad Wenstrup, where several candidates poured millions of dollars to win the primary in the safe GOP seat. Concrete company owner David Taylor is likely heading to Congress after securing around 25 percent of the vote, but one of his challengers, Derek Myers, stole more than a few headlines.

Myers was most notably a former low-level aide to ex-Congressman George Santos and told House investigators during their ethics probe that he repeatedly sent money to another Santos staffer during the hiring process in hopes of securing the job. He also claimed to have been sexually harassed by Santos. 

Myers made news again Tuesday when he inadvertently sent out a concession email hours before polls even closed. His campaign called it an error and sent out an “OFFICIAL” concession after their candidate came in dead last with less than two percent of the vote.

Santos spiked the football on his former staffer’s defeat in the Ohio primary, failing to even spell his name correctly in a text to The Spectator: “Derek Meyer finally learned that amateurs cannot play in the political arena. He ought to go find out who those 1.5 percent people who voted for him are because those are the only potential friends he has left in life.” Santos also asked The Spectator to call the loss “vindication” with a “capital v.” 

Over in Illinois, Trump-endorsed Congressman Mike Bost looks to have narrowly held off fellow Republican Darren Bailey, the Democrats’ preferred candidate for governor in the state last cycle. Despite getting blown out by Governor J.B. Pritzker, Bailey retained enough support in southern Illinois to almost oust Bost. He was backed in his primary most prominently by Congressman Matt Gaetz, who almost came to physical blows with Bost over the ouster of then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy. 

In northern Illinois, Cook County voters are picking the successor to disgraced state’s attorney Kim Foxx. The results are not yet finalized, with Eileen O’Neil Burke and Clayton Harris virtually tied. Burke leads by under 10,000 votes out of almost half a million cast, with 99 percent of the votes reported. Burke, a former appellate court judge, prosecutor and defense attorney, is far more moderate than Harris, who was backed by the county’s progressive class. He is a former city official and a former professor of mine at the University of Chicago.

Whichever Democrat comes out on top will be favored to win in November, and will have their work cut out for them as Chicago and Cook County continue to grapple with crime. This year, it took only forty-five minutes for the city to record its first homicide.

-Matthew Foldi

On our radar

HOGAN SURGING A new poll from the Washington Post and University of Maryland finds former Republican governor Larry Hogan leading by double digits against either of his likely Democratic challengers in Maryland’s Senate race.

BIDEN’S CAR CRACKDOWN The Biden administration issued sweeping new rules to limit car emissions through the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday. The EPA hopes to have electric vehicles make up two-thirds of new car sales in just eight years.  

TRUMP’S ‘IMPOSSIBLE’ BOND The former president’s lawyers say he cannot post $464 million in bond to appeal a judgment in his New York civil fraud case. Attorney General Letitia James has signaled she is eager to begin collecting on the massive fine handed down by Judge Arthur Engoron by seizing some of Trump’s properties. 

RNC stays Scott free

Trouble is already brewing at the Trump-helmed RNC. Last week, new co-chief Lara Trump declared her desire to hire Scott Presler on a podcast. “I think he’s fantastic,” she told Benny Johnson. “I want him on our legal ballot harvesting division.” Alas, the plan to recruit the “clean-up” activist appears to have breathed its last: a spokesperson for the committee told NBC that Presler will be a “valuable voice to the RNC” but will not become a direct employee as he “remains focused on his nonprofit.” The committee will have to look elsewhere as it seeks to combat the Republican Party’s early-voting woes.

Cockburn, of course, was the first to point out how the RNC might not consider Presler to be a culture fit for their workplace: back in January he wrote of a “well-known piece of lore in DC campaign world”: that Presler had been “busted making gay porn in an RNC-funded office.” This confirmed reporting in Politico about Presler having to resign from his role with the Republican Party of Virginia. Cockburn can see how that episode may pose difficult questions when it comes to a job screening…

Cockburn

Courts play tug-of-war with Texas law 

The US Supreme Court ruled Tuesday evening that Texas could begin enforcing its strict immigration law, which makes entering the state illegally a crime and allows state judges to issue deportation orders for illegal aliens. The ruling came amid the wait for a lower court decision on whether the law was constitutional given that immigration enforcement is typically reserved to the federal government.

But hours after SCOTUS cleared the way for Texas to begin enforcement, a federal court of appeals re-issued a temporary stay as it scheduled oral arguments for Wednesday morning to determine whether the law should indeed go into effect pending the broader legal battle. The same court will determine the constitutionality of the law next month. 

The chaotic legal jockeying mirrors that of a previous move by Texas to take control of the border crisis as Governor Greg Abbott and Republicans accuse the Biden administration of inaction. The Supreme Court said it would allow the federal government to cut razor wire erected by Texas at the border while a lawsuit made its way through the courts. However, US Customs and Border Patrol said they had “no plans” to remove the wire. 

Amber Duke

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