Ohio GOP Leaders Try to Block Trump Endorsement of JD Vance

Ohio GOP Leaders Try to Block Trump Endorsement of JD Vance jd vance speaks during a campaign debate in the ohio republican senate primary Ohio GOP Senate primary candidate JD Vance (Paul Vernon/AP)

JILL COLVIN and JULIE CARR SMYTH Thursday, 14 April 2022 09:19 PM

Dozens of Republican leaders in Ohio are mounting a last-minute effort to urge former President Donald Trump not to endorse JD Vance in the crowded upcoming primary for an open Senate seat.

A draft letter circulating among Republicans and obtained by The Associated Press calls on Trump to remain neutral in the race. It was written following a news report Trump was going to endorse Vance, a step the former president has not yet taken.

But the letter is a sign of anxiety among some Republicans about which candidate Trump might pick in advance of the state's May 3 primary. Vance has come under particular scrutiny from some of Trump's most loyal supporters for criticizing the former president in the past, something the Republicans highlighted in their letter.

In bullet points, they remind Trump of Vance's past comments, including references to potentially supporting Hillary Clinton and comparing the former president to "another opioid."

"We know there are many qualified candidates in this race who have stood up for the America First agenda over the years and have carried the Trump mantle over the years, again with the notable exception of JD Vance," they wrote. "While we were working hard in Ohio to support you and Make America Great Again, JD Vance was actively working against your candidacy.”

The letter, signed by GOP party leaders, including a slew of county chairs, tells the former president that “an endorsement that cuts against your support and legacy in Ohio will only serve to confuse or upset voters” and may even suppress Republican turnout in the fall.

Representatives for Vance, who has said he regrets his past comments, did not return an email seeking comment. Trump representatives declined to comment.

David Johnson, chairman of the Columbiana County Republican Party, who helped to draft and circulate the letter, said the effort came together in a series of phone calls between party chairs Thursday.

Johnson, who has endorsed former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken for Senate, said the letter has now been signed by between 40 and 50 people, including supporters of Timken, former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, Cleveland investment banker Mike Gibbons, and state Sen. Matt Dolan. Two other candidates round out a seven-way primary to replace Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

"All of us think it's just not a smart thing to do for winning that seat," Johnson said. "That's the objective."

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