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Key House primary results: Davis wins, Kaptur to face Merrin

GOP races featured fights over who was biggest Trump backer

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, speaks during a news conference on postal banking pilot programs on the East Front of the Capitol in Washington on April 15, 2021.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, speaks during a news conference on postal banking pilot programs on the East Front of the Capitol in Washington on April 15, 2021. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Some incumbents faced tough challengers while other candidates battled in safe open seats or for nominations in battleground districts in Illinois and Ohio on Tuesday. California also had a special election for a vacant seat.

Here are the results of several key races. This report will be updated as results are called by The Associated Press.

Illinois incumbents

Illinois 7th: Rep. Danny K. Davis won a five-way Democratic primary in Illinois’ 7th District, likely securing a 15th term in a bright blue district. 

Davis had 52 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 9:05 p.m. Eastern time. Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin had 21 percent, and gun violence prevention advocate Kina Collins, who challenged Davis in 2020 and 2022, had 19 percent. 

[After rally with Trump, Moreno wins Ohio GOP nod to face Brown]

The pro-Israel group United Democracy Project, which spent $494,000 on ads and direct mail against Collins, called the race “a significant defeat for the Squad and the anti-Israel fringe as one of their star recruits lost.”

Illinois 12th: Republican Rep. Mike Bost, who had the backing of former President Donald Trump, held a 3 percentage point lead in Illinois’ 12th District over Darren Bailey, the GOP’s 2022 nominee for governor, when the AP called the race at 10:14 a.m. Eastern Wednesday.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., had gone to Ohio to campaign for Bailey and told reporters he was “trying to change Congress.” Bost, who had shouted at Gaetz on the House floor in January 2023 during the prolonged January process of choosing a House speaker, heavily outspent Bailey in the primary.

Battleground challengers picked

Ohio 9th: State Rep. Derrick Merrin won the 9th District Republican primary in Ohio to face Rep. Marcy Kaptur, one of a handful of Democrats in districts where Trump beat Joe Biden in 2020.

Merrin had 48 percent when the AP called the race at 9:43 p.m. Eastern, followed by state Rep. Craig Riedel with 39 percent and former Napoleon Mayor Steve Lankenau with 13 percent. J.R. Majewski, the 2022 challenger to Kaptur, was running but dropped out last week, and votes for him were not tallied, according to the AP.

Riedel had the support of Rep. Jim Jordan, the influential Ohio Republican who helped found the House Freedom Caucus. Merrin was backed by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC allied with the House GOP leadership that spent $756,000 supporting him.

The district runs along Lake Erie and includes Toledo and Sandusky. In 2022, the lines were redrawn to exclude blue-leaning Cleveland suburbs and add more Republican communities along the Indiana border, making Kaptur a top GOP target.

Ohio 13th: In Ohio’s 13th District, which Biden won with just 51 percent of the vote in 2020, former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin will face Democratic Rep. Emilia Sykes, who is seeking her second term.

When the AP called the GOP primary at 8:52 p.m. Eastern, Coughlin had 67 percent to Hudson City Council member Chris Banweg’s 26 percent and former television technician Richard Morckel’s 8 percent.

Illinois 17th: In Illinois’ 17th District, Democratic Rep. Eric Sorensen will face retired judge Joe McGraw, who won a two-candidate GOP primary with 67 percent.

Inside Elections rates the November races for Sorensen and Kaptur’s seats as Lean Democratic and Sykes’ race as Tilt Democratic.

Open-seat nominees picked

Ohio 2nd: In Ohio’s 2nd District, concrete company owner and former prosecutor David Taylor defeated 10 Republicans for the nomination to an open seat currently held by Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup, who is retiring.

Taylor, staffing company owner Larry Kidd and former Marine drill instructor and retail franchisor Tim O’Hara each put more than $1 million of their own money into the campaign through Feb. 28 and ran as conservatives who support Trump. Former Cincinnati City Council member Phil Heimlich criticized the others in the race for overlooking Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, and in one ad suggested Democrats or independents “ask for a Republican ballot” in the primary.

When the AP called the race at 10:13 p.m., Taylor had 25 percent, O’Hara 21 percent, Kidd 19 percent and Heimlich was sixth with 5 percent.

Republican Senate primary winner Bernie Moreno, left, speaks with Michael Rulli, who won the GOP primary in Ohio’s 6th District, at the Columbiana County Lincoln Day Dinner in Salem, Ohio, on Friday.

Ohio 6th: In Ohio’s 6th District, which stretches along the state’s eastern border and includes Youngstown, state Sen. Michael Rulli defeated state Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus and chiropractor Joe Tsai for Republican nominations this year and next year for the vacant seat left by the January resignation of GOP Rep. Bill Johnson. 

Rulli led Stoltzfus by 9 percentage points when the AP called the race at 10:25 p.m. in each of the two simultaneous primaries with the same candidates. One was for a full term starting in January and the other for the remainder of Johnson’s term this year. A special election to fill that seat will be held on June 11 between Rulli and Democratic nominee Michael Kripchak. The district backed Trump over Joe Biden by 29 points in 2020.

Rulli started the race with an edge: more of his legislative constituents are in the congressional district than Stoltzfus’, and he has run competitive campaigns before, Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin reported

Both Rulli and Stoltzfus produced ads promising to finish a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Rulli’s ads also touted his family’s grocery stores, another connection in the district. Stoltzfus pitched himself as a “Christian conservative” and attacked Rulli as a “woke liberal” for sponsoring an anti-LGBT discrimination bill.

California counting

California 20th: State Assemblymember Vince Fong led in a nonpartisan special election to fill the vacant seat left when former Speaker Kevin McCarthy resigned in December, but his tally was under the 50 percent level needed to win outright. There will be a runoff on May 21 to fill the remainder of McCarthy’s term this year.

Fong, a Republican backed by McCarthy, also led in a regular nonpartisan primary two weeks ago for a full term. He advanced out of that race and will face Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, who is also Republican.

The AP has made a call that Fong advanced to the runoff, but had not called who his opponent would be, with 84 percent of votes counted at 3 a.m. For the second spot, Boudreaux led Democrat Marisa Wood by about 3 percentage points.

Amounts candidates gave or loaned to their campaigns were corrected in this report.

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