Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has survived a Republican primary, NBC News projects, besting a trio of challengers Tuesday who had tried to stir anger over his aggressive pandemic management and doubts about his conservative credentials.
DeWine, 75, will face the winner of a bitter Democratic primary in a GOP-leaning state, which former President Donald Trump won twice by 8 percentage points.
Just before 10:30 p.m. ET, DeWine was leading his challengers by more than 20 points.
"Elections are about the future," DeWine said at an election night event following his victory. "And that's what this election is about."
"We've made great, great strides," he added. We have fought and won for the state of Ohio every single day. We're going to continue to fight and win for the state of Ohio."
Trump did not get involved in Ohio's primary for governor. But it wasn't for lack of effort on the part of former Rep. Jim Renacci, who had hoped to draw his attention and endorsement by hiring former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale as a top adviser.
Although Renacci had served in Congress and ran statewide as an unsuccessful Senate candidate in 2018, political novice Joe Blystone — a farmer and restaurateur recognizable by his signature cowboy hat and long beard — waged a surprisingly strong campaign that split the anti-DeWine vote. A fourth candidate, former state legislator Ron Hood, was less of a factor.
DeWine was one of the first governors in the country to close schools and businesses in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. At first, his approach earned bipartisan praise and boosted his approval ratings. Eventually, the base of his party grew restless with the mandates. As DeWine pulled back, Democrats accused him of caving in to pro-Trump extremists on the right wing.