(Bloomberg) -- Businessman Michael Braun won Indiana’s Republican primary to run in November against Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly, who is seeking a second term to represent the heavily Republican state.
Braun prevailed over two established Republican politicians, Representatives Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, according to Associated Press vote tallies, after a bruising campaign in which each candidate competed over who was most closely aligned with President Donald Trump.
With two-thirds of precincts reporting, Braun had 41 percent of the vote to 29.5 percent for Messer and 29.4 percent for Rokita.
Braun, whose auto-parts distribution business made him wealthy, largely financed his own campaign with about $6 million, according to Federal Election Commission reports. He regularly referred to Rokita and Messer as “career politicians” and drew parallels between himself and Trump, pointing to his status as a political outsider and job creator.
Donnelly, one of 10 Senate Democrats seeking re-election in states won by Trump in 2016, was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Among the House primary races, Vice President Mike Pence’s brother, Greg Pence, won the Republican primary to represent a district in southeastern Indiana.
Voters in Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina also were voting in primaries Tuesday. Along with West Virginia and Ohio, the primary in Indiana sets up a crucial race that may determine which party controls the Senate next year. The GOP now controls the Senate 51-49.
One of the most closely watched contests was the Republican Senate primary in West Virginia, where Representative Evan Jenkins and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey were confronting a late surge by former coal company executive Don Blankenship, whose scorched-earth, anti-establishment campaign drew attention from GOP leaders in Washington.
Trump took the unusual step of intervening in the race by warning West Virginia Republicans that Blankenship was too tainted to win a general election against Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who coasted to renomination.
Blankenship, who spent a year in prison on a conviction related to a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 workers, launched racially tinged attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, suggesting he faces a conflict of interest because he’s married to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan to Chinese parents.
All three West Virginia candidates, like the Indiana Republicans, vowed to hew closely to Trump as part of their campaign.
With a little more than an third of precincts reporting, Morrisey was drawing 35 percent of the vote, ahead of Jenkins with 30 percent and Blankenship with 20 percent.
Brian Howey, publisher of the nonpartisan Howey Politics Indiana political report, said that pledging fealty to Trump carries risks for Republican candidates in November.
“The president’s standing with independent voters is pretty poor, and whoever is running in November is going to need those independent voters. There are real dangers in tacking too close to Trump,” he said.
In Ohio, Representative Jim Renacci was won the Republican Senate primary to face Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who was unopposed in his primary, in November.
Richard Cordray, the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, won the Democratic primary for Ohio governor, defeating Dennis Kucinich, a former congressman and Cleveland mayor, and four other candidates. Attorney General Mike DeWine cruised to an easy victory in the Republican contest.
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