Democratic Insider and a Republican Backed by Trump Win Ohio House Races

A Democratic candidate backed by the party establishment and a Republican endorsed by former President Donald J. Trump won two primary races for open House seats in Ohio on Tuesday, an assertion of dominance for the leadership of both political parties as they face questions over unity in their ranks.

In a Democratic primary in northern Ohio, Shontel Brown, who vowed to be “a partner” with the Biden administration and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prevailed over Nina Turner, a party outsider who openly rejected the idea that Democrats are more effective through conciliation and compromise. Late Tuesday, Ms. Brown was leading by over five percentage points, and Ms. Turner conceded the race.

And in a Republican primary near Columbus, Mike Carey, a newcomer to elected office who was largely unknown before being endorsed by Mr. Trump, easily beat out 11 rivals, many of them with much longer records in Ohio politics.

Between the two races, the Democratic fight for the deep-blue 11th District around Cleveland and Akron was the most closely watched as a national bellwether. Prominent Democratic politicians and money from national interest groups cascaded into the district over the past several weeks, leaving a trail of ill will and weariness in their wake.

Though Ms. Turner was helped on the ground by hundreds of organizers and volunteers from left-leaning organizations and outspent Ms. Brown in the early phase of the race, it was not enough in the end to overcome the onslaught of advertising against her, or the unified wall of resistance to her candidacy from pillars of the Democratic establishment.

“I am going to work hard to ensure that something like this never happens to a progressive candidate again,” Ms. Turner said in her concession speech. “We didn’t lose this race. Evil money manipulated and maligned this election.”

Ms. Brown, 45, a county Democratic Party chair, was endorsed by an array of local, state and federal officials who prided themselves on their ties to leadership in Washington. That coalition rallied against Ms. Turner, an unapologetically sharp-tongued progressive activist and former state senator who campaigned as a disrupter of the political status quo.

The race was not as much emblematic of a liberal-moderate divide among Democrats as it was a clash between an insider who rose fast in local party circles and an agitator who thrived on alienating party leaders by questioning their commitment to liberal ideals. Both candidates were solidly liberal in their views on a range of issues, including legalizing marijuana and making college more affordable or free in some cases.

Outside political groups from different corners of the Democratic coalition invested heavily in the race. Backing Ms. Turner were left-wing environmental interests supporting the Green New Deal; the political group founded by Senator Bernie Sanders that she once ran, Our Revolution; and two progressive groups, the Working Families Party and Justice Democrats.

Supporting Ms. Brown were more institutional players and politicians like the political committee of the Congressional Black Caucus; several senior members of the caucus; Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic House whip; Hillary Clinton; Jewish Democrats; Cleveland-area Black churches; and, unofficially, Marcia Fudge, who vacated the seat this year to become Mr. Biden’s secretary of housing and urban development and consented to have her mother appear in an ad endorsing Ms. Brown because she had to remain neutral as a government official.

Democratic leaders in Washington and groups that are often at odds with the progressive left were worried that a victory by Ms. Turner, who led by double digits in early polls and initially raised more money than Ms. Brown, could presage a new round of intraparty hostilities for Democrats.

And the establishment hit back hard — to a degree it had not in previous battles when candidates with the support of the party’s activist left, like Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman of New York, took out veteran politicians with little pushback.

This time, while Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and other stars of the left campaigned in Ohio for Ms. Turner, prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus like Mr. Clyburn visited the district and implored people to vote for Ms. Brown as someone who was respectful and willing to work with other Democrats — an implicit criticism of Ms. Turner’s more confrontational style. Many criticized her openly, like Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who referred to Ms. Turner as “a single solitary know-it-all.”

Advertising attacking Ms. Turner’s professionalism and character was ubiquitous in the district during the final days of the campaign. One ad from the centrist group Third Way compared Ms. Turner’s political style and tone to Mr. Trump’s, and replayed an on-camera moment she has struggled to live down throughout the campaign in which she made a crude analogy to the choice between Mr. Biden, whom she did not support, and Mr. Trump.

Matt Bennett, an executive vice president at Third Way, said Ms. Brown’s victory represented a resounding defeat of “the candidate ordained by the far left” by everyday Democrats.

“These voters went overwhelmingly for Joe Biden in the 2020 primary, and they want their member of Congress to work with him and Speaker Pelosi on a mainstream Democratic agenda. They are not interested in bomb-throwers,” Mr. Bennett added.

Ms. Turner’s allies did not read much into her defeat as a sign that the progressive movement was struggling to connect with voters. Joseph Geevarghese, the executive director of Our Revolution, which sent hundreds of volunteers into the district, said progressives needed to “invest more in building the organizing infrastructure we need to reach every voter.”

“I think there’s more people who are aligned with our values,” he added, “and the question is organizing and motivating them to turn out.”

In the election in the Republican-leaning 15th Congressional District near Columbus on Tuesday, Mr. Carey, an energy lobbyist, handily prevailed over a crowded field after the former president endorsed him and elevated him from virtual anonymity. Late Tuesday, Mr. Carey was leading his nearest opponents by more than 20 percentage points.

Mr. Trump’s credibility as the gatekeeper for the Republican Party had been dented somewhat after the candidate he endorsed in a special House election in Texas lost last week. In that race, a state representative, Jake Ellzey, beat Susan Wright, the widow of the former congressman who held the seat until he died in February after battling lung cancer and being hospitalized for Covid-19.

“Great Republican win for Mike Carey,” Mr. Trump said in a statement on Tuesday night. “Big numbers! Thank you to Ohio and all of our wonderful American patriots.”

Last week, the pro-Trump group Make America Great Again Action made a last-minute purchase of nearly $350,000 in text messages, digital ads and television commercials in support of Mr. Carey. Throughout the race, Mr. Carey pointed to a singular selling point as he campaigned: the Trump seal of approval.

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