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Trump-endorsed statewide GOP candidates aren't talking about former president much post election

VANCE ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
US Senator Elect JD Vance (R) speaks to a crowd in downtown Columbus after winning his race.

Before the May primary, Republicans in the state were seeking the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, and many who got that endorsement went on to win their primaries. But on election night, those Trump-endorsed candidates barely mentioned him.

Republican U.S. Senator-elect J.D. Vance was running in a tight race with other candidates in the primary. Matt Dolan, state senator and part-owner of the Cleveland Guardians; Mike Gibbons, investment banker; Josh Mandel, former state treasurer; Neil Patel, businessman; Mark Pukita, businessman; and Jane Timken, former Ohio Republican Party chair, were all competing with Vance for their party's nomination for the prized U.S. Senate seat, held by Republican Rob Portman.

Some even made multiple trips to visit Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Florida to try to get his endorsement.

In mid April, Trump made his choice known by endorsing Vance. After Trump's endorsement, Vance was at the top of the heap in the polls and won the crowded primary. During the campaign, Trump urged voters to cast their ballots for Vance and he held rallies in Ohio where Vance was featured.

So it was somewhat surprising that on election night, after his victory, Vance didn’t mention Trump’s name. Vance said it was an oversight.

“I actually didn’t mention a couple of my own staff members and was kicking myself afterwards. I think people are reading way too much into it. I do feel very grateful for the president’s support. But it was also 11:30. We had had a long night after a long couple of weeks and sometimes you leave some people out," Vance said.

Vance said he didn't vote for Trump in 2016 and once spoke out against him. At one point, Vance referred to Trump as an "idiot." But Vance said he misjudged Trump and said he regrets the negative comments he made about Trump before entering the campaign for U.S. Senate.

Vance wasn't the only Trump-endorsed Republican who left the former president out of their acceptance speech on election night. Other Trump backed statewide candidates including Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose, also failed to mention him in their acceptance speeches on election night.

In recent days, some Republicans have voiced concerns with Trump and questioned whether his endorsement helped or hurt candidates. Some Trump endorsed Republican candidates in Ohio, including Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, J.R. Majewski, and incumbent Steve Chabot, lost their elections in newly-drawn Congressional districts.

Republican pundits on national media outlets have suggested that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who won re-election Tuesday, might be the de facto leader of the Republican Party.

The statewide Republican who won by the largest margin Tuesday was Gov. Mike DeWine. Though he had Trump's endorsement, he rarely appeared on stage with the former president before the election, often citing scheduling conflicts.

In April, DeWine planned to skip a rally with Trump to attend a 200th birthday celebration to honor another former president: Ulysses S. Grant. DeWine would end up testing positive for COVID-19 during that time.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.
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