West Virginia’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, pulled off an upset in the state’s Senate Republican primary on Tuesday, defeating former coal executive Don Blankenship and U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins in the combative and colorful race that saw a last-minute appeal from President Trump.
The results could be seen as a victory for Trump, who had urged Republican voters to reject Blankenship as doomed to lose to incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in November. It could also be seen as a win for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who clashed with Blankenship during the campaign.
Meanwhile, Indiana businessman Mike Braun and Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci will also both win their state’s Republican Senate primaries, according to the Fox News Decision Desk.
In all three states, voters picked Republican nominees to take on some of the most vulnerable incumbent Senate Democrats in this year’s midterm elections. Republicans hold a slim 51-49 advantage in the Senate.
In recent days, the contest in West Virginia has received the most national attention, with Blankenship portraying himself as a true conservative outsider. Blankenship made waves in recent days for airing a campaign ad referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as “cocaine Mitch.”
On Monday, Trump appealed to the state’s primary voters to oppose Blankenship, arguing he “can’t win” in the general election.
Blankenship served a year in prison on a misdemeanor conviction for conspiring to violate mine safety laws, in connection with the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in West Virginia in 2010 that killed 29 workers.
At his election night gathering on Tuesday, Blankenship told Fox News that he thinks the “overhang” of bad headlines about the Upper Big Branch explosion had the biggest impact.
The West Virginia Senate race is considered a toss-up in the midterm elections, as Republicans hope to unseat incumbent Joe Manchin, a Democrat who first won the seat in a 2010 special election. Manchin easily defeated challenger Paula Jean Swearengin in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Meanwhile in Indiana, Braun, a former state legislator who poured his own money into the race, defeated Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita. Braun will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.
Braun spent millions on ads arguing he’s an outsider, but his primary rivals attacked him over voting records indicating he voted in Democratic primaries until 2012.
Braun has responded by saying he is a conservative Republican, but he voted in past Democratic primaries to have a say in local races dominated by Democrats. His rivals have asked who he voted for in the 2008 Democratic primary race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but Braun claims he voted for neither.
Braun was elected to the Indiana State House as a Republican in 2014.
In Ohio, Renacci, who has been endorsed by President Trump, defeated businessman Mike Gibbons in the Buckeye State’s Republican Senate primary and will face Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in November.
Also in Ohio on Tuesday, Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray won their party’s primaries in the race to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. John Kasich.
In North Carolina – which also held primaries Tuesday – a Republican congressman, Rep. Robert Pittenger, lost the Republican primary to challenger Mark Harris, a Baptist minister.
Fox News’ Peter Doocy, Ellison Barber, Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.