Skip to content

Nine takeaways from California, Illinois and Ohio elections

Not a typo: Schumer and Trump wanted the same guy to win in Ohio, and he did

Republican Bernie Moreno, who won Tuesday's Senate primary in Ohio, speaks Friday in Salem, Ohio, at the Columbiana County Lincoln Day Dinner in front of a blown-up photo of former President Donald Trump.
Republican Bernie Moreno, who won Tuesday's Senate primary in Ohio, speaks Friday in Salem, Ohio, at the Columbiana County Lincoln Day Dinner in front of a blown-up photo of former President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Incumbents on the hot seat won, one without really breaking a sweat, while other primaries and special elections in California, Illinois and Ohio set matchups for fall battlegrounds or picked nominees for safe open seats.

Here are nine things to know about the election results. 

Trump — and Schumer — got what they wanted

In the battle of MAGA vs. the Ohio GOP establishment for the chance to unseat vulnerable Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, chalk up another win for the Trump wing. Bernie Moreno’s lopsided triumph over state Sen. Matt Dolan, a traditional Republican, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose in Ohio’s nasty and expensive Senate primary came just days after former President Donald Trump appeared at a rally in Dayton alongside Moreno. Dolan had the backing of Gov. Mike DeWine and former Sen. Rob Portman, but he lost by more than 17 percentage points.

Moreno’s win was also a victory for Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer. A super PAC aligned with the New York Democrat invested about $3.2 million, including $2.5 million reported on Friday, to lift up Moreno. The group, Duty and Country PAC, ran TV ads portraying Moreno as a close ally of Trump who is “too conservative for Ohio.” While the ad looked like an attack, it likely boosted Moreno’s standing among Republican primary voters — a sign that Democrats view him as the weakest opponent against Brown.

So did Speaker Johnson 

In Ohio’s 9th District, House Republicans were divided over who they wanted to challenge Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who’s been in the House since 1983. Rep. Jim Jordan, the influential Ohio Republican who helped found the House Freedom Caucus, backed former three-term state Rep. Craig Riedel. House Speaker Mike Johnson was behind state lawmaker Craig Merrin, a last-minute recruit who entered the race in December after audio surfaced of Riedel bashing Trump.The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Johnson, spent $756,000 supporting Merrin, and the former president himself endorsed him just hours before the polls opened. Trump beat Joe Biden in this district in 2020, and Republicans view it as a top pickup opportunity.

Matt Gaetz didn’t 

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz reportedly sparred with Illinois Rep. Mike Bost last year as House Republicans struggled to elect a speaker. Gaetz then campaigned with Darren Bailey, who was challenging Bost, the chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. But Bost heavily outspent Bailey and was leading by 3 percentage points when The Associated Press called the race Wednesday morning.

Bost, who is now on track to win a sixth term in a district rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections in November, was endorsed by Trump, which helped underscore his credentials to Republican primary voters. Bailey, meanwhile, also played up his own ties to Trump, who endorsed his unsuccessful 2022 gubernatorial campaign. 

Gaetz has also targeted fellow GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales, who faces a May 28 runoff in Texas after failing to win 50 percent of the vote in a primary earlier this month. The dynamics of that race could differ from Bost’s though. While Bost is a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership, which casts itself as a group of Republicans focused on governing, he rarely strays from the party line. Gonzales, on the other hand, has split with his party on gun control and border security.

A mixed night for J.D. Vance 

The junior senator from Ohio had a win and a loss on Tuesday. Vance was an early and vocal backer of Moreno in the GOP’s Senate slugfest. But businessman and Marine Corps veteran Chris Banweg, Vance’s preferred candidate to take on Democratic freshman Rep. Emilia Sykes in Ohio’s 13th District, lost the primary to businessman Kevin Coughlin, who had the support of Jordan.

A crowd can help

Sometimes you don’t need to rack up big numbers, or even win a majority of the vote, to secure the nomination. In Ohio’s safe-red open 2nd District, concrete company owner and former prosecutor David Taylor won the 11-person Republican primary with just 25 percent of the vote, according to the AP. Taylor, staffing company owner Larry Kidd and former Marine drill instructor and retail franchisor Tim O’Hara each put in more than $1 million of their own money 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 used an ad to tell Democrats and independents they could ask for a Republican ballot in the primary. Heimlich finished in sixth place with 5 percent of the vote. 

Taylor will face Democrat Samantha Meadows, who lost by 49 points to retiring incumbent Rep. Brad Wenstrup in 2022.

Geography can too

State Sen. Michael Rulli had a geographical edge over state Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus and chiropractor Rick Tsai in the GOP race for a vacant seat in the 6th District: The two counties that hold the majority of the congressional district’s voters are part of Rulli’s current state Senate district. Also, his family owns two eponymous grocery stores, and they featured prominently in one of Rulli’s ads.

The solid Republican seat opened after former Rep. Bill Johnson resigned to lead a local college, and on Tuesday there were two simultaneous primaries with the same candidates, one 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 take place June 11. Democrats nominated Michael Kripchak in the district, which backed Trump over Biden by 29 points in 2020.

McCarthy replacement has to wait

In California’s 20th District, state Assemblymember Vince Fong finished first in the special election to fill the unexpired term of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. But Fong, who was also the top vote-getter two weeks ago in a primary for a full term starting next year, finished with about 41 percent in the nine-candidate field, incomplete returns show. That means there will be a runoff on May 21 to fill the seat, but Fong’s opponent had not yet been called by the AP early Wednesday afternoon. Republican Michael Boudreaux and Democrat Marisa Wood were about 3,300 votes apart for the second spot with an estimated 84 percent of the vote counted. Fong has the backing of both McCarthy and Trump. 

Age concerns don’t stick

Illinois Rep. Danny K. Davis, 82, appears set to win a 15th term in November after finishing more than 30 percentage points ahead of his closest challenger in a five-way primary Tuesday night. He brushed off any concerns about his age, and he argued that Biden’s age shouldn’t be an issue. 

“Don’t ever write off the senior citizens,” Davis said in his victory remarks. “Don’t write off President Joe Biden because he’s going to lead this country where it needs to be, and I’m going to be standing right there beside him.”

Biden, 81, is running for reelection as the oldest president in American history, a concern for voters that he’s tried to ease. He is set to face Trump, the presumed GOP nominee who is just four years younger. 

Coffee doesn’t buy you votes

Illinois Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García essentially won another term on Tuesday by defeating Chicago Alderman Raymond Lopez with 69 percent of the vote in a Democratic primary for the 4th District, where there isn’t a Republican running. But the day wasn’t without its drama.

García’s campaign accused Lopez’s campaign of passing out coffee, doughnuts and money for lunch to election judges on Tuesday. 

Lopez said in a statement that Garcia was trying to “smear anyone who stands in his way” and that providing election judges with coffee and lunch is an old tradition.

Herb Jackson contributed to this report.

Recent Stories

Piecemeal supplemental spending plan emerges in House

White House issues worker protections for pregnancy termination

Senate leaders seek quick action on key surveillance authority

Officials search for offshore wind radar interference fix

McCarthy gavel investigation ends without a bang

Rep. Tom Cole seeks to limit earmark-driven political headaches