Voters cast their ballots in Ohio's primary election at a polling location in Columbus suburb of Dublin, Ohio on Tuesday, May 3, 2022
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Voters are heading to the polls in Ohio Tuesday morning for the expensive and contentious primary election where it’s still anyone’s game to replace retiring GOP Senator Rob Portman. 

Ohio’s Republican race will put former President Donald Trump’s influence to the test after he backed a candidate many GOP voters in the state claim isn’t conservative enough – J.D. Vance.

The wide open race shows Vance in the lead with 26.2 percent of the vote, according to a Trafalgar Group poll released Monday. But competitor and state Senator Matt Dolan isn’t far behind with 22 percent and former state treasurer Josh Mandel earned 20 percent in the survey.

‘Polls open in about 10 minutes here in Ohio, and I just want to say thank you to everyone,’ Vance tweeted on Tuesday morning. ‘To the volunteers and early supporters, to my staff and the campaign team, to my family who allowed me to do this, and to the people of Ohio who will vote today. God bless you all!’

Author Vance is going up against six other candidates on the primary ballot, but his biggest competitors are Mandel, Dolan and banker Mike Gibbons. The remaining three candidates further behind in the polls are former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, businessmen Mark Pukita and Neil Patel.

Mandel, Vance, Gibbons, Timken and Dolan all feel within striking distance of victory after a huge number of voters said they are still undecided in the days leading up to Election Day in Ohio.

Candidates and interest groups as of Monday spent an unprecedented $66.2 million on television, cable and radio advertising in the GOP primary, which shattered the previous campaign spending record in the state. 

Voters cast their ballots in Ohio's primary election at a polling location in Columbus suburb of Dublin, Ohio on Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Voters cast their ballots in Ohio’s primary election at a polling location in Columbus suburb of Dublin, Ohio on Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Ohio's Trump-backed Senate candidate J.D. Vance speaks at a polling location in Grove City, Ohio on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 as voters head to cast their ballot in the primary race

Ohio’s Trump-backed Senate candidate J.D. Vance speaks at a polling location in Grove City, Ohio on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 as voters head to cast their ballot in the primary race

Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine (pictured) arrives on Tuesday to cast his ballot in the state's primary race

Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine (pictured) arrives on Tuesday to cast his ballot in the state’s primary race  

DeWine votes with Ohio's first lady Fran DeWine in Cedarville, Ohio on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 as he vies for a chance at a second term in office

DeWine votes with Ohio’s first lady Fran DeWine in Cedarville, Ohio on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 as he vies for a chance at a second term in office

Banker Mike Gibbons

Ohio state Senator Matt Dolan

Ohio voters are heading to the polls Tuesday to vote in several elections – including the hotly contested and unprecedentedly expensive Senate race where it’s still anyone’s game 

A poll from Trafalgar Group released Monday shows Vance in the lead with 26.2% and Dolan close behind with 22%. Three of the candidates are below the 8.6% of Ohio voters who are still undecided

A poll from Trafalgar Group released Monday shows Vance in the lead with 26.2% and Dolan close behind with 22%. Three of the candidates are below the 8.6% of Ohio voters who are still undecided 

Whoever wins the Republican primary will go against one of three Democrats running in Tuesday’s race – Representative Tim Ryan, attorney Morgan Harper or tech executive Traci Johnson.

‘I was the last person into this race, so the undecideds have had multiple times to go with any other candidate,’ Dolan told Fox News on Sunday. ‘So as they’re becoming aware of me, that’s where I’m rising in the polls.’

Of the 1,081 likely GOP primary voters surveyed in the Trafalgar poll taken April 29 through May 1, 8.6 percent of respondents said they were still undecided.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.99 percentage points.

Although the Senate primary is taking a major front seat through money and advertising, there is also a spotlight on deciding the Senate Democratic nominee and whether incumbent Republican Governor Mike DeWine will get a chance for term No. 2, which will be against one of two former southwest Ohio mayors. 

Former President Donald Trump's coattails will be put the test on Tuesday after he put his backing last month behind Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance (left) ¿ which confused many Republicans in the state who feel he isn't conservative or pro-Trump enough

Former President Donald Trump’s coattails will be put the test on Tuesday after he put his backing last month behind Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance (left) – which confused many Republicans in the state who feel he isn’t conservative or pro-Trump enough

THE RACES TO WATCH IN OHIO’S TUESDAY PRIMARY ELECTION

The Republican-leaning states of Ohio and Indiana hold nominating primaries on Tuesday where voters will pick their parties’ candidates for the U.S. Congress and other offices, helping to shape the field for the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Here are four contests to watch in Ohio:

J.D. VANCE V. JOSH MANDEL

This contest to succeed retiring Republican Senator Rob Portman is shaping up as a high-profile test of former President Donald Trump’s ability to shape the Republican field to his liking as he ponders another White House bid.

Trump upended the crowded race when he endorsed J.D. Vance, the ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author and venture capitalist, a newcomer to politics who had been trailing other candidates. Ohio Republicans have argued that Vance’s past criticism of Trump could hurt the party’s chances of holding the seat in November.

Vance’s most prominent rival is Josh Mandel, an ex-U.S. Marine and former state treasurer, who had been considered the front-runner prior to Trump’s endorsement. Like Vance, Mandel has endorsed Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

Other candidates include: Jane Timken, a former chair of the state Republican Party; banker Mike Gibbons, and Matt Dolan, a wealthy state senator who is the only candidate to acknowledge that Biden was elected legitimately.

TIM RYAN’S SENATE BID

U.S. Representative Tim Ryan is considered the favorite to win the Democratic endorsement over Morgan Harper, a progressive attorney and tech executive Traci Johnson.

Ryan has represented the Youngstown area in Congress since 2002, carving out a reputation as a centrist on social issues and a liberal on economic issues. The winner of this contest will likely face an uphill fight against the Republican nominee in a state that has drifted steadily to the right over the past decade.

GOVERNOR MIKE DEWINE FACES CHALLENGERS

Incumbent Republican Governor Mike DeWine faces two challengers: former Rep. Jim Renacci, who fell short in a U.S. Senate bid in 2018, and farmer Joe Blystone. If DeWine wins the primary as expected, he is favored to win re-election in the fall.

DEMOCRATIC DUEL: BROWN V. TURNER

The Democratic primary in the state’s Cleveland-based 11th congressional district features a rematch between incumbent Representative Shontel Brown and progressive Nina Turner, who lost in a special election last year. That race was seen as a proxy battle between the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, which backed Turner, and establishment figures, which lined up behind Brown.

The victor of this primary will be heavily favored to win in November.

Vance prompted voters on Twitter to head to their polling places Tuesday morning

Vance prompted voters on Twitter to head to their polling places Tuesday morning

Senate GOP primary competitor Josh Mandel posted images on Twitter with voters on Monday in Vienna, Ohio. He has the backing of many major Republican names, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz

Senate GOP primary competitor Josh Mandel posted images on Twitter with voters on Monday in Vienna, Ohio. He has the backing of many major Republican names, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz

Mandel poses with voters the day before the Ohio primary election

Mandel poses with voters the day before the Ohio primary election

Despite no clear ‘front-runner’ for most of the Senate race, Trump’s endorsement of Vance last month and his rally a few weeks later helped clarify things for some voters who rely on the ex-president’s backing to pick their preferred candidate.

‘The president himself has endorsed us, Donald Trump Jr.,’ Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy, said Saturday. ‘I think that sends a signal that I’m not gonna stab our voters in the back.’

A big round of conservative money and advertising has kept Mandel in contention, in what has been a bad tempered race, and could even open the door for state Senator Matt Dolan, who has gone out of his way not to seek out Trump’s favor.

During a rally outside of Columbus, Ohio last month, Vance still received some mixed reviews from the pro-Trump crowd, but by the end of the former president’s remarks, Ohioans were cheering on the candidate.

But Trump made a slip up during his rally in Greenwood, Nebraska on Sunday in managing to forget his chosen candidate – confusing the two top Republicans in the primary by saying ‘J.D. Mandel’.

‘You know,’ Trump told the crowd ‘we’ve endorsed Dr Oz.’ The TV physician is Trump’s pick in Pennsylvania.

‘We’ve endorsed,’ he said before pausing and searching for the right name – ‘J.P., right? J.D. Mandel, and he’s doing great.’

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