DeWine fends off populist challengers to win Ohio GOP governor nod

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was projected to win his state’s GOP gubernatorial primary Tuesday, fending off challenges from populist detractors who argued he was insufficiently conservative.

NBC News and CNN both called the race for DeWine around 8:17 pm ET.

He defeated former Rep. Jim Renacci, restaurateur Joe Blystone and former state Rep. Ron Hood.

DeWine called it an “honor and privilege” to score the nomination and vowed to “keep fighting and WINNING for Ohio.”

DeWine, who was first elected to the governorship in 2018, faced a wave of disgruntlement over his early coronavirus restrictions, including mask mandates and social distancing measures. A federal probe into an Ohio-based electric utility also ensnared people near his administration, though DeWine himself was never accused of wrongdoing.

Long seen as a traditional conservative, DeWine has a lengthy history in public office, including serving in both chambers of Congress and as Ohio’s attorney general, lieutenant governor and ultimately governor.

He historically was not viewed as much of a cultural warrior but, perhaps in an acknowledgment of his right-wing challengers, leaned into some causes popular with the right, including by sending Ohio Highway Patrol troopers to the southern border.

DeWine also benefited from a split field of challengers, who appeared to be dividing the anti-DeWine vote.

An April survey from the Trafalgar Group, a GOP firm, showed Dewine leading with 40 percent support, followed by 26 percent for Renacci, 24 percent for Blystone and 2 percent for Hood.

DeWine was also buoyed by a lack of involvement by former President Trump, who endorsed Renacci’s 2018 Senate bid but stayed out of the gubernatorial race.

With the nomination, DeWine becomes the early favorite to win in the November general election given Ohio’s red hue, but Democrats said they expect to make the race competitive.

“A million dollars from the RGA may have been enough to bail Gov. Mike DeWine out of this divisive Republican primary, but it won’t mean the deep problems he has with his own party will go away. DeWine spent almost five million dollars on this race so far, and he’s still the same out-of-touch politician who has failed Ohioans time and time again,” said Democratic Governors Association Executive Director Noam Lee.

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