Mike DeWine wins Republican nomination in Ohio gubernatorial primary
Incumbent Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has won the Republican nomination in his bid for re-election, according to unofficial election results.
DeWine successfully fought off three candidates in a gubernatorial primary race that became a re-evaluation of his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was the first incumbent governor of Ohio to be challenged in a primary since 1978.
DeWine received more than 48% of the Republican primary vote, former Congressman Jim Renacci with 28%, farmer Joe Blystone with more than 21%, and former state representative Ron Hood with 2%. That's based on unofficial election results.
The challengers, who positioned themselves as being further to the right of DeWine politically, were vocal critics of his health orders in 2020.
In the early stages of the pandemic, DeWine was the first governor in the country to order schools to close and begin remote learning. He also issued health orders to shut down businesses and implement social distancing requirements.
DeWine defended his actions during the pandemic saying they made decisions based on the "best information" available.
"It was my responsibility as governor to take the actions that needed to be taken. I think if you looked at how Ohio approached the pandemic and how other states approach the pandemic, I believe that we had a proper balance between public safety and also allowing people to make their livelihoods," said DeWine.
Renacci, a former northeast Ohio congressman who ran for U.S. Senate in 2018, ran a campaign focused on criticizing DeWine's health orders.
"When did we start taking away these rights? That's the real issue that I'm hearing as I travel around Ohio. And that's the concern I have too. So as governor, again, these are decisions. These should be individual choice decisions," said Renacci.
Blystone, a central Ohio farmer and businessman, said he never even thought about running for public office until DeWine's COVID-19 response, which included a statewide mask mandate.
Blystone said Ohio implemented overbearing health orders, "And we saw – 'You cover your face up. You stay away from people. Don't send your kids to school. Don't go to church.' Our rights [were] severely stomped on."
The three challengers in the race were all vying for the support of former President Donald Trump. But Trump never endorsed anyone in the race, and the candidates — going for the anti-DeWine vote — turned their attacks on each other as well.
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Paduchik released a statement congratulating DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.
"Ohio Republicans look forward to voters across the Buckeye State rallying around their steadfast leadership to, once again, win the Governor's Office in November," Paduchik wrote in a statement.