Primary Preview: What To Watch For In Indiana, West Virginia and Ohio
West Virginia Republicans could choose a felon who was responsible for the death of 29 miners to be their candidate for the U.S. Senate.
There are a number of high-stakes contests taking place throughout in four states on Tuesday, primaries that will have major ramifications on the success of both parties this year.
Voters in West Virginia will choose a Republican Senate candidate to challenge incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). The top three contenders are Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV), Attorney General Patrick Morrissey and former coal executive Don Blankenship. Blankenship, a former coal executive who went to federal prison for conspiring to violate mine safety standards after 29 miners were killed in an explosion at a mine his company owned, appears to have gained momentum in recent days through a scorched-earth racist campaign aimed at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
On Monday, President Trump tweeted a plea for voters to reject Blankenship, not because of his past but rather that he would not be viable in a general election matchup. Blankenship dismissed the tweet and later criticized Trump for recommending “that people vote for a guy that was basically accused of pedophilia in Alabama,” a reference to Judge Roy Moore who lost a Senate race in Alabama last year after being accused of sexual misconduct with a number of minors.
In Indiana, Republicans are similarly eyeing the opportunity to knock off an incumbent, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN). Viewed as one of the more endangered Democratic members of the Senate, he could face off against Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) or former state lawmaker Mike Braun. The contest has largely hinged on the candidates trying to be as supportive of Trump as possible, with Rokita recently running an ad promising to bring special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe to an end if elected.
Ohio is playing host to high-profile primaries for both the Democratic and Republican parties. There are a total of ten Republicans vying for Rep. Pat Tiberi’s (R-OH) vacated seat in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, creating a kind of proxy war between moderate and more conservative Republicans. State Senator Troy Balderson has the backing of Tiberi while another challenger in the race, Melanie Leneghan, has the support of House Freedom Caucus co-founder Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). Air Force veteran Tim Kane, who has described himself as an “old-school, free-market economist,” is also gaining attention, yet running behind Balderson and Leneghan.
Another interesting dynamic is unfolding in the Democratic primary for governor in Ohio. Richard Cordray, the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, are viewed as the top two competitors in the contest. Recent polling has indicated that the wonkish Cordray, described affectionately by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as a “nerd,” has a healthy lead over Kucinich despite a high number of undecided voters. Both are progressives with a key distinction being Cordray’s prior A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, a point which Kucinich has emphasized. Cordray now believes in universal background checks. Kucinich made headlines recently for taking $20,000 from a pro Syrian government group, which he did not initially disclose when he gave a series of speeches in 2017.