Trump-backed Derek Merrin wins Ohio GOP race to challenge Marcy Kaptur – Washington Examiner

A Trump-backed Republican will challenge the longest-serving woman in Congress after a rollercoaster contest that became about allegiance to the former president.

Derek Merrin, an Ohio state lawmaker who earned former President Donald Trump’s endorsement on the eve of the election, won the primary for Ohio’s 9th Congressional District on Tuesday. He will now compete against Rep. Marcy Kaptur (R-OH), who has represented the Toledo area since 1983.

Another Republican, Craig Reidel, had been seen as the party’s best chance at defeating Kaptur, whose district was reconfigured to favor Republicans, yet he lost the support of members of House leadership after a leaked tape in which he called the former president “arrogant.” Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) recruited Merrin to make a last-minute bid for the seat.

Merrin captured 48% of the vote to Riedel’s 39% when the Associated Press called the race at 9:43 p.m. Eastern. A third candidate, former Napoleon mayor Steve Lankenau, placed a distant third. 

Merrin entered at a volatile time in the race. J.R. Majewski, the scandal-plagued Trump loyalist, had become a loose cannon who forced months of speculation about whether he would run after losing a 2022 bid against Kaptur by 13 points.

He joined and dropped out twice in the span of a year, finally agreeing to stay out for good two weeks before the Tuesday primary.

That created what was essentially a two-person race with Riedel, who pummeled him on the airwaves as a career politician and “Never Trumper.” The former president’s endorsement came Monday afternoon, hours before polls opened.

Merrin will have a bigger challenge in toppling Kaptur, whose brand of economic populism has won her 21 terms in the quintessentially Rust Belt district.

“It’s a unique district that is very pro-labor, and Kaptur also runs very well in that district,” said one Ohio Republican operative, speaking on condition of anonymity. “So, you have to have a candidate that actually understands how to speak to labor to win, and I’m not sure that we do.”

Nonetheless, Kaptur, one of five Democrats to represent a district won by Trump in 2020, is almost uniquely vulnerable. She is part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “frontline” program to protect swing-seat incumbents.

If Trump performs well in November — he won the state by 8 points in 2020 — it could give coattails to Merrin, who is serving his fourth term in the Ohio Statehouse. He represents Lucas County, an urban center where Kaptur will attempt to run up the vote.

Johnson recruited Merrin to the race in December, but he may have been instrumental in Majewski’s decision to drop out as well, reportedly imploring Trump for help in a February trip to Mar-a-Lago.


Majewski, accused of lying about his military service and more recently condemned for derogatory comments about the Special Olympics, denied that Trump influenced his decision to leave the race.

The former president praised him at a rally held outside of Dayton on Saturday.