COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The November field for governor was set Tuesday and Ohioans voted their approval for a state program for repairs and upgrades to roads and bridges.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald easily won the Democratic primary for governor, and will challenge Republican Gov. John Kasich’s bid for re-election this fall. Long the presumptive Democratic nominee, FitzGerald overwhelmed little-known Larry Ellis Ealy.
House Speaker John Boehner handily turned back tea party challengers in his home district’s Republican primary. Miami University professor Tom Poetter won the Democratic primary to oppose Boehner in the 8th District he has dominated since first winning in 1990.
Two-term Republican Rep. Bill Johnson could face a competitive challenger in November. An anti-abortion, pro-gun rights former state legislator, Jennifer Garrison, won the Democratic primary in Ohio’s 6th District, where she steered away from President Barack Obama in the Appalachian coal region.
House incumbents Democrat Tim Ryan and Republicans Steve Stivers and Michael Turner easily won their primaries.
Meanwhile, a Republican state legislator under indictment on felony charges was soundly rejected by primary voters. With all precincts reporting unofficial returns, Rep. Peter Beck of Mason had about 8 percent of the vote, with Paul Zeltwanger, who owns a real estate development company, winning with 52 percent over Mary Jo Kubicki in the southwestern Ohio race.
Voters were supporting by a 2-to-1 margin a statewide public works issue will allow the state to borrow $1.875 billion over 10 years through the issuance of general obligation bonds.
The Ohio Public Works Commission would use the funds to provide grants and loans to local governments for capital improvement projects. Those could include repairs to roadways, wastewater treatment systems and sanitary collection.
The Libertarian Party of Ohio and the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law opposed it, but Kasich said the proposal would keep Ohio’s economy growing by making needed investments in infrastructure.
No significant voting problems were reported to state officials by the time polls closed Tuesday evening.
“Things appear to have gone pretty smoothly,” Ohio Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Matt McClellan said.
Elections board officials in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus reported light but steady turnout Tuesday, with heavier voting in communities with contested issues or candidate races.
Five GOP incumbents in the Ohio Senate had challengers, though no Democratic incumbents did. Democrats had 13 contested primary races for seats in the Ohio House, while majority Republicans had almost twice as many.
Marylyn Brengelman, a 66-year-old retiree who voted in Cincinnati, said she likes Kasich because “he’s done a good job overall.”
“I just voted Republican down the line,” she said. “I’d like to boot everyone out of Washington and get a fresh start, but that’s not an option.”
Rick Pender, a 65-year-old Cincinnati resident and fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, said he voted for Fitzgerald.
“I hope the Democrats in Ohio get their act together,” he said soon after the polls opened. “It seems the Republicans are in a strong position. I’m just hopeful the Democrats can have a good ticket and do better at becoming well-known to voters.”
Pender said the ultimate focus should be on the economy and job creation.
“That’s been Kasich’s strength, whether you agree with him or not,” he said. “It still needs to improve, especially with employment.”
Jim Flynn, a semiretired executive recruiter from Toledo, voted in the Democratic primary for governor but had trouble for a moment remembering FitzGerald’s name. He admitted he didn’t know much about him.
Flynn normally leans toward Democrats but said he’s been impressed by Kasich’s first term. “He’s been a pleasant surprise,” he said. “I kind of like him, kind of.”
Kasich would get his vote right now over FitzGerald, Flynn said.
The biggest issue on his mind is still unemployment, even though it has gotten better, he said.
Voters also picked which U.S. House candidates will run in the fall; all 16 incumbents are seeking re-election.
Boehner, of West Chester, moved on to the general election in his bid for a 13th term representing western Ohio, despite unhappiness among some GOP voters about the federal deficit and immigration. Boehner beat two tea party opponents, high school teacher J.D. Winteregg and businessman Eric Gurr, in the 8th District.
Beck was among the 15 Republican incumbents in the Ohio House trying to defend their seats. Beck is accused of misleading investors about a company’s financial status and using their money for personal gain, allegations he denies.
Voters will decide about 600 local issues along with the statewide public works issue.
Scott Fettig, a 39-year-old newscast director who was at a Cincinnati precinct with his 4- and 5-year-old sons, said he voted for it.
“It’s important to do something with infrastructure and issuing bonds is probably better than collecting tolls,” he said.
Associated Press writers Amanda Myers and Dan Sewell in Cincinnati, John Seewer in Toledo and Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus contributed to this report.