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Illinois and Ohio primaries 2024: Trump-backed Senate candidate prevails in Ohio primary

November’s presidential matchup may be set, but Democrats and Republicans still need to decide who will run in hundreds of downballot races (e.g., for Senate and House) this fall. A batch of these contests were decided on Tuesday, March 19.

Tuesday was primary day in Ohio and Illinois, and in the biggest contest of the day, Republicans chose former President Donald Trump's endorsee Bernie Moreno as their candidate in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race. It was a good night for other Trump endorsees too, as Derek Merrin prevailed in the GOP primary for Ohio's 9th Congressional District, while incumbent Mike Bost is leading his challenger in Illinois's 12th District, as of early Wednesday morning. Plus, a special election in California could have immediate implications for House Republicans’ razor-thin majority.

538 reporters and contributors broke down the election results as they came in with live updates, analysis and commentary. Read our full live blog below.


Latest Developments


Mar 20, 12:02 AM

Two outstanding races

Finally, two of our key races aren’t likely to be settled tonight. Here’s where things stand as of midnight Eastern:

- Illinois’s 12th District GOP primary is on a knife’s edge: Republican Rep. Mike Bost narrowly leads former state Sen. Darren Bailey 52 percent to 48 percent with 75 percent of the expected vote reporting. This makes it our lone unprojected race of note in Illinois or Ohio.

- Out west, the special election in California’s 20th District to fill the vacancy left by former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s resignation looks to be headed for a May 21 runoff. With 79 percent of the expected vote reporting, Republican state Assemblymember Vince Fong leads with 40 percent, followed by 26 percent for fellow Republican Mike Boudreaux, the Tulare County sheriff. But Democrat Marisa Wood has 24 percent, so she could conceivably surpass Boudreaux for second place. Still, no candidate looks on course to win a majority, making a second vote two months from now very likely.

—Geoffrey Skelley, 538


Mar 20, 12:00 AM

And the winners are ...

It’s midnight Eastern, and all but one of our key races have been projected in Ohio and Illinois. Here’s a recap of where things stand in those races:

- Former President Donald Trump once again flexed his muscles in the Ohio Senate race, elevating former car salesman Bernie Moreno from a 2022 also-ran to the GOP nominee in one of the two top Senate races on the map, beating an uber-rich state senator and a two-time statewide officeholder in the process. But Moreno’s toughest path lies ahead, against well-funded incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. With 96 percent of the expected vote reporting, Moreno leads with 51 percent of the vote over state Sen. Matt Dolan’s 33 percent and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s 17 percent.

- In Ohio's 9th District, the conservative backed by Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson, state Rep. Derek Merrin, is projected to win, and ready to take on Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur in what could be a tough general election race. With 80 percent of the expected vote reporting, Merrin has won 52 percent of the vote, 18 percentage points ahead of his nearest competition.

- In Ohio’s 13th District, another potentially competitive Democratic-held seat, former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin advanced out of the GOP primary rather easily and will take on Democratic Rep. Emilia Sykes in November. With 80 percent of the expected vote in, Coughlin leads with 65 percent of the vote so far over businessman Chris Banweg’s 28 percent and Richard Morckel’s 7 percent.

- The Republican Main Street Partnership notched a win against its rivals in the House Freedom Caucus in Ohio’s 6th District, where state Sen. Michael Rulli is projected to beat state Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus. Rulli currently leads by 9 points with 83 percent of the expected vote reporting in the regular primary, and by 8 points with 82 percent of the expected vote in the special election. Rulli will face a nominal challenge from Democrat Michael Kripchak on June 11 in the special election to replace Rep. Bill Johnson.

- In another safe GOP seat, Ohio’s 2nd District Republican primary went for business owner David Taylor, who won a crowded race that was tantamount to election in November. With 95 percent of the expected vote reporting, Taylor leads with 25 percent of the expected vote over 10 other challengers.

- Despite several challengers lining up to replace Democratic Rep. Danny Davis, the long-time incumbent is likely to hold onto his seat in Illinois’s 7th District. With 76 percent of the expected vote in, Davis leads with 53 percent of the vote so far. In second is Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin with 22 percent, followed by community organizer Kina Collins with 18 percent. Collins was seen as Davis’s primary competition tonight, and her underwhelming performance was part of a tough night for progressives in Chicago.

—Jacob Rubashkin, Inside Elections; Geoffrey Skelley and Monica Potts, 538


Mar 19, 11:23 PM

Chicago races are a mixed bag for progressives

In downballot races in Chicago tonight, it looks to be something of a mixed result for the progressive movement. On the legislative level, moderate challengers failed to oust more progressive-leaning state legislative incumbents across the Chicago area. The more progressive candidate also has been projected to win state Senate District 20, according to the Associated Press. However, as I mentioned earlier, marquee progressive items look to be losing: Both the “Bring Chicago Home” referendum and Cook County State’s Attorney Democratic primary show progressives behind.

So despite the mayor’s unpopularity, and some indications in polls that the progressive movement might be on the wane in the city, there’s a bit of good news for both sides of the Democratic divide tonight.

—Mary Radcliffe, 538


Mar 19, 11:18 PM

It was a tough night for Republican women and a mostly good night for Democratic women

Only three of the eight Republican women we were tracking won their primary races: Two of them were uncontested and are in deep blue districts, where they are unlikely to win in November. One, Miller in Illinois's 15th, is the incumbent. On the flip side, 13 of the 17 Democratic women we were tracking won their races, many of them incumbents likely to hold their seats in November.

Women have record representation in Congress now, but of course still lack parity. But in this election, issues that women care about, namely abortion and reproductive rights, are poised to make a difference. Democratic voters could be motivated to turn out to protect abortion rights at the national level, and Democratic candidates are likely to run on the issue going forward.

—Monica Potts, 538


Mar 19, 11:14 PM

Polls have now closed in California

Polls are now closed in the Golden State, where a special election is taking place to fill the seat of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for the remainder of his term. State Assemblymember Vince Fong led in the regular top-two primary two weeks ago, and is favored to ultimately win this race as well. But results in California usually take quite a while to fully come in since a large proportion of voters vote by mail. And it might not end with today's contest either: If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote today, the top two vote-getters will advance to a special general election in May.

—Cooper Burton, 538


Mar 19, 11:12 PM

Republicans put their faith in another rich guy

Moreno’s nomination in Ohio continues a trend of Republicans entrusting their Senate hopes to a coterie of very wealthy men (and one woman, Nella Domenici in New Mexico). In almost every single competitive Senate race, the likely Republican nominee is a politically inexperienced but very wealthy man, each of whom is self-funding to some degree. While Moreno isn’t as wealthy as Tim Sheehy in Montana, Eric Hovde in Wisconsin or Dave McCormick in Pennsylvania, he certainly fits the mold. And if Republicans come up short in their efforts to flip the chamber this fall, I think there will be a lot of focus on how the party eschewed candidates with experience winning races in favor of neophytes, especially when Democrats have such strong incumbents.

Jacob Rubashkin, Inside Elections

PHOTO: Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate shakes hands with a supporter during his primary election night watch party in Westlake, Ohio, March 19, 2024.  (David Dermer/AP)
PHOTO: Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate shakes hands with a supporter during his primary election night watch party in Westlake, Ohio, March 19, 2024. (David Dermer/AP)


Mar 19, 10:50 PM

Checking in on anti-abortion Republican candidates

Of the 29 anti-abortion Republican candidates we're tracking, 15 have been projected to win per ABC News, including 6 incumbents. Twelve challengers are projected to lose their races (though, of course, many were running in the same contests, like the crowded Ohio 2nd District race). In the only race on this list that's not yet projected, Illinois's 12th District, incumbent Mike Bost is leading Darren Bailey — both are on the list. With abortion shaping up to be an important issue in the fall, these candidates have all made pro-life statements without saying abortion should be left to the states. That could signal their willingness to support a national abortion ban, as some Republican and national anti-abortion groups are advocating for.

How anti-abortion Republicans are doing tonight

Results for Republican candidates in the March 19 primaries for Senate, House and governor whose campaign websites use the phrase “pro-life,” “sanctity of life,” “right to life,” “no abortion,” “against abortion” or “unborn” and do not say abortion is an issue of states’ rights, as of 10:45 p.m. Eastern

Candidate

Office

% Reporting

Vote Share

Status

Marcus Lewis

IL-01

29%

80%

✓ Won

Ashley Ramos

IL-02

32

100

✓ Won

Tommy Hanson

IL-05

33

100

✓ Won

Niki Conforti

IL-06

33

100

✓ Won

Chad Koppie

IL-07

32

100

✓ Won

Darren Bailey

IL-12

71

47

Trailing

Mike Bost*

IL-12

71

53

Leading

James T. "Jim" Marter

IL-14

34

79

✓ Won

Mary Miller*

IL-15

39

100

✓ Won

Darin LaHood*

IL-16

35

100

✓ Won

Matt Dolan

OH Sen.

86

33

✗ Lost

Frank LaRose

OH Sen.

86

17

✗ Lost

Bernie Moreno

OH Sen.

86

50

✓ Won

Orlando Sonza

OH-01

55

100

✓ Won

Niraj Antani

OH-02

94

2

✗ Lost

Kim Georgeton

OH-02

94

2

✗ Lost

Ron Hood

OH-02

94

9

✗ Lost

Larry Kidd

OH-02

94

19

✗ Lost

Charles Tassell

OH-02

94

2

✗ Lost

David J. Taylor

OH-02

94

25

✓ Won

Shane Wilkin

OH-02

94

9

✗ Lost

Jim Jordan*

OH-04

84

100

✓ Won

Bob Latta*

OH-05

79

83

✓ Won

Reggie Stoltzfus

OH-06

83

41

✗ Lost

Warren Davidson*

OH-08

71

80

✓ Won

Craig S. Riedel

OH-09

78

34

✗ Lost

Mike Turner*

OH-10

48

100

✓ Won

Landry M. Simmons Jr.

OH-11

41

21

✗ Lost

Elayne J. Cross

OH-14

78

13

✗ Lost

*Incumbent.

Sources: Campaign websites, ABC News

—Monica Potts, 538


Mar 19, 10:43 PM

Rulli projected to win

In Ohio’s 6th District, Michael Rulli is projected to defeat Reggie Stoltzfus in the Republican primary, according to ABC News. Rulli currently leads by about 9 percentage points in the regularly scheduled primary and 8 points in the special election primary to succeed Rep. Bill Johnson, with over 80 percent of the expected vote reporting in each. Because the district is solidly Republican, Rulli will likely be the next member of Congress. A special election in a few months will send him to D.C., where he’ll fill out the remainder of Johnson’s term.

—Jacob Rubashkin, Inside Elections


Mar 19, 10:41 PM

How much is a House seat worth?

And Geoff, it only cost Taylor $1.7 million. Not a bad deal given how much some other self-funders have spent just to come up short. (David Trone dropping $13 million to lose my home district, MD-08, in 2016 comes to mind.)

—Jacob Rubashkin, Inside Elections


Mar 19, 10:39 PM

Senate primary polls usually misfire, but not by this much

As I noted in the opener for our live blog today, the polls in Ohio's Senate race showed a "close race" between Moreno and Dolan, with LaRose in a somewhat distant third. The result, however, is anything but close. With 85 percent of the expected vote reporting, Moreno currently has a lead of 17 points, making for an 18-point miss in our polling average (after you account for some rounding). This is not the largest miss in Senate primary polling history — that honor belongs to surveys of the 2018 Republican primary for a special Senate election in Mississippi — but it is nevertheless very large. An 18-point miss is about 2 times the size of the expected miss of primary polls in historical Senate races (8.2 points).

This miss is notable because it's actually larger than historical expectations. That's the opposite of what we've been seeing with presidential primary polls — which, while they have systematically overestimated support for Trump this cycle, have at least been more accurate than the historical average presidential primary survey. Pollsters will need to do some work to figure out what went wrong.

—G. Elliott Morris, 538

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