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Endorsements play key part in stacked Ohio Republican primary

The special election in Ohio’s 15th district will serve as a test of President Trump’s influence.
Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 4:17 PM EDT
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ATHENS, Ohio (Gray DC) - Early voting continues until Tuesday in Ohio for the special primary election to replace Republican Congressman Steve Stivers who resigned in May.

The 15th congressional district stretches from the southern parts of Columbus to rural Athens County. It’s a solid Republican district that voted for President Trump in 2020.

Tuesday, 11 GOP candidates will vie for a primary victory, and both former President Trump and former Congressman Steve Stivers have something to say about the race. The dueling endorsements are creating conservative tension in Ohio’s 15th Congressional GOP primary.

The 11 candidates competing for the Republican nomination are John Adams, Mike Carey, Eric M. Clark, Thad Cooperrider, Ruth Edmonds, Ron Hood, Thomas Hwang, Stephanie Kunze, Jeff LaRe, Bob Peterson, Brian Stewart and Omar Tarazi.

And according to Ohio State’s political science Professor Emeritus Paul Beck, the right nod of approval could propel one candidate to victory.

“There is no high profile candidate to draw candidates to the polls, that’s where endorsements could be important,” Beck said.

EXTENDED INTERVIEW: Professor Paul Beck unpacks the race for Ohio’s 15th congressional district

Former 15th district congressman and National Republican Committee Chair Steve Stivers has thrown his weight behind State Rep. Jeff LaRe, a security expert and former deputy sheriff.

“Whether Stivers endorsement is going to matter a lot, I think we just don’t know,” Beck said.

Veteran and lobbyist, candidate Mike Carey, on the other hand, could be carried to victory by President Trump himself. And a Super PAC aligned with Trump that, according to disclosure documents, provided hundreds of thousands of dollars for targeted advertisements on Carey’s behalf.

Looking at this race from a national perspective, Georgetown University Professor Mark Rom said the outcome could test President Trump’s remaining influence in the GOP.

“If Trump starts endorsing people who are losing, then, uh, you know, whatever power he has, it does diminish,” Rom said.

And, Rom said, it could set the stage for Trump’s own future in Washington.

Two democrats, Greg Betts and State Rep. Allison Russo are also competing for the nomination. The winners of both primaries will face off on November 3rd.

Early voting numbers suggest the primary election will have a very low voter turnout.

Multimedia Journalist Natalie Grim contributed to this report.

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