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Some Ohio conservatives are upset with Trump over his endorsement in U.S. Senate race

Former President Donald Trump walks down steps from his jet and onto the stage set up for a rally in Columbus, Ohio in 2016
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Former President Donald Trump walks down steps from his jet and onto the stage set up for a rally in Columbus, Ohio in 2016

Republican U.S. Senate candidateJ.D. Vance got the announcement that most of his rivals had been seeking – an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. But some conservatives say they won’t vote for Vance and are now threatening they won’t back Trump either.

The ‘We the People Convention,’ a Tea Party group based in Portage County, had endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Mike Gibbons.

Tom Zawistowski, the group's president, said it appears Trump is listening to the same establishment advisors who staffed his administration with "RINOS" (Republicans in name only). Zawistowski said those same staffers undermined Trump's presidency.

Zawistowski noted nearly all of the Ohio Republican Party county chairmen signed a letter to Trump, asking him to not endorse Vance, a venture capitalist and the author of "Hillbilly Elegy."

The U.S. Senate candidate was once considered a "Never Trumper" and had said during the 2016 presidential race that he "might have to hold his nose and vote for Hillary Clinton" instead of Trump. Zawistowski said Gibbons, an investment banker, is a true conservative.

"Conservatives in Ohio do not accept this endorsement and will not vote for Vance," Zawistowski said.

Zawistowski says everyone he's talked to in the past few days echoes that sentiment. He said Trump’s endorsement of Vance flies in the face of Ohioans who elected Trump.

“Mr. President, you claim you won Ohio twice but let me be clear. You didn’t win Ohio. We the people worked our asses off and elected you twice,” Zawistowski said.

When he announced his endorsement, Trump acknowledged Vance's previous criticism.

"Like some others, J.D. Vance may have said some not so great things about me in the past, but he gets it now, and I have seen that in spades," wrote Trump, who added that Vance created the best opportunity for Republicans to win the general election in November.

Zawistowski said members of his group plan to voice their opposition at Trump’s planned rally in Delaware County Saturday.

“President Trump needs us. We don’t need President Trump. We need conservative leadership and there are other voices out there that can provide that leadership," Zawistowski says.

Zawistowski suggested his group might instead back Florida Governor Ron DeSantis if he decided to take on Trump in a Republican primary for president in 2024.

The endorsement for Vance came while early voting in Ohio is already under way.

It is thought that Trump's endorsement, which was heavily sought by the U.S. Senate candidates in the Republican primary, will be enough to push one of the seven candidates ahead of the pack.

Polls show there isn't a clear leader though Gibbons, Vance, and former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel have ranked among the top possible vote-getters. The Ohio primary is on May 3.

Contact Jo Ingles at
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