Republican businessman Bernie Moreno won the Ohio Senate primary Tuesday evening with the help of former President Donald Trump and his allies, according to The Associated Press.

Moreno secured 49.6% support compared to state Sen. Matt Dolan’s 32.9% and Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s 17.5%, the AP projected at the time of writing. The Trump-backed businessman will face vulnerable Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in November for what will likely be one of the most competitive races of the 2024 cycle.

LaRose had a steady advantage in the primary until the race started tightening in December, according to FiveThirtyEight’s survey compilation. Moreno took the lead on March 1, but Dolan saw a late spike just ahead of election day that nearly tied the two in the average.

“I’m honored and humbled by the thousands of Ohioans who stood with me in this campaign. While this is not my time to serve as our party’s nominee for the United States Senate, I’m profoundly grateful for those who gave me their support,” LaRose said in a statement. “Now is the time to stand together as a party. Moments ago, I called to congratulate Bernie Moreno and wish him well. We all share the same mission to retire Sherrod Brown and restore Ohio’s voice and values to the United States Senate. The stakes for this election couldn’t be higher.”

Moreno notched key endorsements from prominent Trump-aligned national Republicans, including Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, while Dolan and LaRose received most of their support from state and local leaders. Days before voters took to the polls, Dolan scored Ohio GOP Gov. Mike DeWine’s support.

Trump also won Ohio’s Republican presidential primary on Tuesday with 79.2% support, and President Joe Biden secured his party’s nod at 87%, according to the AP.

Moreno and Dolan ran in the 2022 GOP primary for the seat currently held by Vance, which the state senator came in third for. The businessman withdrew from the race before votes were cast.

The race became quite expensive as the Republicans sparred largely over border policy, abortion restrictions and Ukraine funding. Roughly $54 million has been spent on ads for the Senate race, including $19.1 million boosting Dolan, $15 million supporting Moreno and $5.5 million promoting LaRose, according to data compiled by AdImpact.

Dolan, who was in the race for the longest, out-raised and out-spent the other Republicans, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data. Moreno followed closely behind Dolan, while LaRose, who was the last to jump in the race, lagged behind them both.

Both Dolan and Moreno had roughly $2.4 million in the bank going into primary day, while LaRose reported less than $600,000 in hard dollars, FEC data shows.

Moreno will have to compete with Brown’s massive fundraising advantage, as he’s already brought in $26.7 million this cycle and has $13.5 million cash on hand, according to FEC data. The senator also reported spending $16.6 million.

The Cook Political Report characterizes the Senate race as in the “Toss Up” category for 2024, as well as seats currently held by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Mary Lou Masters on March 19, 2024

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