Laverne Gore, a Republican, won the GOP nomination for the 11th District open seat and will face Brown. Allison Russo, a Democrat, won in the 15th and will challenge Carey in the November general election.
In the 11th Congressional District, which stretches from Cleveland to Akron, Turner, a former state senator, and Brown, a Cuyahoga County councilor and chair of the local Democratic Party, were locked in a bitter fight. Turner entered the race as the best-known candidate and an ally of the left-wing “squad” of House Democrats.
“Please send me Nina,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told voters during a late July swing through the district. “We need Nina.”
Brown, 45, had entered the race with local clout. Turner, 53, had name recognition from a career in Ohio politics and two campaigns with Sanders as a passionate surrogate who was unsparing in her criticism of “corporate” Democrats. But Brown turned the campaign into a referendum on President Biden, reminding voters that Turner had criticized him and cast a protest vote against the 2020 Democratic platform.
Brown was ahead of Turner by six points when the race was officially called.
In a concession speech, Turner said the country had been through “a desert of despair, indifference, inequality and racism. Tonight my friends we have looked across the promised land, but for this campaign, on this night, we will not cross the river.”
Brown started to catch up to Turner last month, after House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) endorsed her, and after Democratic Majority for Israel’s PAC ran ads warning that Turner could undermine the Democratic agenda. Brown’s campaign emphasized that she had worked to elect Biden; the PAC’s ads reminded voters that Turner had cast a protest vote against the 2020 Democratic platform and had compared the choice between Trump and Biden to eating a full bowl or half bowl of human excrement.
“We knew it was coming, because of my experience with Sen. Sanders,” Turner said in an interview. “We tried to plan accordingly, and we really came in honestly on the issues themselves. Medicare-for-all, increasing the minimum wage, canceling student debt, environmental justice, racial justice, all the things I’ve been working for.” On the trail, she said she’d push Biden’s agenda to the left, working as “a partner, not a puppet.”
Turner’s campaign did not set out to re-fight the Democrats’ last presidential primary. She raised $3.9 million thanks both to her popularity with Sanders supporters and her connections in Ohio, and she got the endorsements of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson as well as the Cleveland Plain Dealer, both praising her work as a state legislator. In the campaign’s final days, a city councilor who had endorsed Brown switched to Turner, citing the negative ads.
Brown’s late momentum was clear from Turner’s scramble to head it off. Brown quickly established herself as the most serious challenger to Turner, raising $2.1 million and — combined with the PAC — outspending Turner on advertising in June.
“I’m voting for Shontel Brown because her leadership has meaningfully improved lives here,” Warrensville Heights Mayor Bradley D. Sellers says in a radio ad running on Brown’s behalf. “Shontel’s a Democrat’s Democrat.”
Brown expressed support for the same agenda as Turner but said that her opponent wouldn’t be as effective. She also ran ads featuring the mother of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, who held the seat until joining Biden’s Cabinet, as a way of telling voters that the popular ex-congresswoman had a favorite in the race.
“I don’t have to start with a long letter of apology,” said Brown, citing the “great relationships” she had with Washington Democrats. “And that is a big difference in making sure that we can bring home the bacon to the people who are counting on us.”
Turner and Brown closed the campaign with a flurry of attacks, with one ad from Turner citing a potential probe into Brown’s contracting on the county council, with an image of jail doors slamming to suggest that Brown could end up in prison, while Turner’s surrogates attacked Brown for the donations she or her supportive PACs had gotten from Republicans.
“Why is it that the drug companies and the insurance companies and fossil fuel industry and Wall Street and people who supported Donald Trump are pouring millions of dollars into this campaign to defeat Nina Turner?” Sanders asked. “They know that when she is elected, she is going to stand up and take them on in the fight for justice.”
There were 11 lesser-known candidates on the ballot, and the winner of Tuesday’s vote won’t get to Congress until the end of the year, after the general election.
That was also true in the 15th District, where 10 Republicans competed to replace former congressman Steve Stivers, who left Congress to lead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Biden got 80 percent of the vote in Ohio’s 11th District, while Trump got 56 percent in the 15th, and neither seat is shaping up to be competitive in November.
The race in the 15th District, which includes part of Columbus and more reliably conservative areas to its south, did not attract the same kind of spending. Carey worked to fend off candidates with deeper political records in the district.
“Great Republican win for Mike Carey. Big numbers! Thank you to Ohio and all of our wonderful American patriots. Congratulations to Mike and his family. He will never let you down!” Trump said in a statement Tuesday night.
Trump’s endorsement of Carey, a personal friend of the former president’s adviser Corey Lewandowski, did not clear the field. Stivers endorsed and put campaign resources behind state Rep. Jeff LaRe, who emphasized his experience as a police officer, and Ohio Right to Life backed state Sen. Bob Peterson, who argued that his rivals aren’t as trustworthy on abortion.
Some national GOP figures endorsed other Carey rivals. Debbie Meadows, wife of former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, backed Ruth Edmonds, a pastor and former local NAACP leader who argued that a Black woman like her could battle left-wing narratives about race. Libertarian PACs put more than $500,000 behind ads for former state congressman Ron Hood, who was endorsed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
That created an unpredictable race, with Carey’s internal polling finding him with a narrow lead until voters were informed of Trump’s support, when he surged far ahead. Carey’s rivals all praised Trump, with Hood calling himself a “Forever Trumper,” and Peterson using images of himself with the former president in campaign literature.
After a Trump-backed candidate lost last week’s special House election in Texas, Republicans are watching more closely to gauge his influence, though the Texas race was a runoff and not a Republicans-only primary. Trump put out a statement last week reiterating that he was backing Carey, and no Republican was running as a Trump critic.
“There’s only one Trump, just like there’s only one Steve Stivers,” LaRe said in an interview.