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Trump could face a rare defeat in the chaotic Ohio GOP Senate primary by someone he calls the 'next Mitt Romney'

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Trump could face a rare defeat in the chaotic Ohio GOP Senate primary by someone he calls the 'next Mitt Romney'


In recent days, former President Donald Trump has found himself locked in a proxy showdown with establishment GOP figures in Ohio.

He might lose.

Trump flew into Dayton on Saturday afternoon for a last-minute rally for Bernie Moreno, a former car dealership owner who’s locked in a contentious primary for US Senate against state Sen. Matt Dolan, a more traditional Republican backed by Gov. Mike DeWine and former Sen. Rob Portman.

Some recent polls have even shown Dolan — who has distanced himself from Trump’s rhetoric and supports US aid to Ukraine — in the lead. That’s prompted an 11th-hour push from Trump and his allies to brand Dolan as a “RINO,” or “Republican in Name Only.”

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“He’s trying to become the next Mitt Romney,” Trump told rally attendees on Saturday, referring to the Utah senator who’s long been a critic of the former president. “I think Mitt Romney is his hero.”

DeWine, meanwhile, called Moreno the “weakest candidate” in the primary after a Democratic super PAC began spending more than $3.1 million on TV and digital ads boosting Moreno among GOP primary voters, an unusually high proportion of whom remain undecided.

It’s the latest example of Democrats meddling in primaries to try to elevate the candidate they believe will be the easiest to defeat in the general election. Whoever prevails in Tuesday’s primary will face Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in a race that could determine control of the US Senate.

Yet the chaotic three-way race — in which Moreno, Dolan, and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose have lobbed insults at one another for months — has also raised the possibility that whoever emerges from the primary will be significantly weakened in the general election.

A burgeoning scandal and a potential rare defeat for Trump

Trump’s appearance came just days after the Associated Press reported that Moreno’s work email was linked to a short-lived profile that sought “Men for 1-on-1 sex” on an adult dating website in 2008. Moreno’s campaign has blamed the incident on a prank by an intern and suggested that Dolan’s campaign planted the story.

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It remains unclear what impact, if any, the story will have on the primary. Moreno made no mention of it in his remarks at the rally, and several voters who spoke with Business Insider said they were unaware of it. Other speakers only made allusions to the controversy as they defended Moreno.

“They lie about people who are fighters,” said Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, who traveled to Ohio to campaign for Moreno as she seemingly auditions to be Trump’s vice presidential pick. “Look at what they’ve done, and how they lied about Bernie… this last week.”


Ohio State Sen. Matt Dolan at an event in Salem, Ohio on March 15, 2024.

Ohio State Sen. Matt Dolan at an event in Salem, Ohio on March 15, 2024.

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images



The primary is ending largely as a two-man race between Moreno and Dolan, with LaRose’s political standing having gradually eroded in part due to his association with a failed campaign in August to make it harder to amend the state constitution. On Saturday, Trump didn’t even mention LaRose.

Yet when it comes to contentious primaries, Ohio is largely the exception to the rule.

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After a 2022 midterm cycle that included a retribution campaign against several House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after January 6, this cycle has seen the former president consolidating his control over the party, even as he’s faced his own primary challengers.

That’s meant working more hand-in-glove with figures like Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who’s tasked with reclaiming the Senate majority as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and has been eager to avoid a repeat of 2022, when Republicans were saddled with unpopular Trump-backed nominees and failed to retake the Senate.

In Montana and Michigan, Trump has backed candidates recruited by the NRSC but had few ties to the former president or his political orbit. On the other hand, Senate Republicans have largely embraced Trump acolyte Kari Lake, despite her losing — and refusing to concede — the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial race.

Yet the NRSC opted against picking a candidate in Ohio, believing that any of the three candidates running could defeat Brown in November.

The result is a campaign that’s unusually emblematic of the divisions that have beset the Republican Party since Trump’s rise, even as he’s remade the party in his image.

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‘His political style? It’s not me’

While Dolan is by no means a moderate on policy matters, Dolan differs from most of the contemporary MAGA base on two major issues — he supports continued US aid to Ukraine, and he has forcefully said in the past that Trump lied about the 2020 election. During the most recent debate, Dolan affirmed his support for the former president’s policies and said he supports Trump as the nominee, but he went out of his way to distance himself stylistically.

“Look, his personality? It’s not me,” said Dolan. “His political style? It’s not me.”

Dolan is also a partial owner of the Cleveland Guardians and comes from a wealthy family, allowing him to contribute millions of dollars to his own campaign. On Tuesday, Dolan poured in another $1 million.

“My attitude is: anybody that changes the name of the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians should not be a senator,” Trump said of Dolan at the rally, referring to the 2021 name change.

Moreno has taken the exact opposite approach, hugging Trump as tightly as possible, going out of his way to defend his character, and pitching himself as a loyal vote for Trump in the Senate.

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The former president endorsed Moreno — who also ran for Senate in 2022 before dropping out and endorsing now-Sen. JD Vance — in December after Vance and a coterie of other MAGA-aligned figures coalesced behind him.


Trump and Moreno on stage at the rally near Dayton, OH on March 16, 2024.

Trump and Moreno on stage at the rally near Dayton, OH on March 16, 2024.

Scott Olson/Getty Images



On Saturday, speakers at the rally had relatively little to say about Moreno himself, beyond passing mentions of his business career and the fact that Trump has endorsed him.

“President Trump wants Bernie,” said Noem, adding that “should be enough reason” for rally attendees to convince their friends to vote for Moreno.

“You’re gonna want President Trump in Ohio a lot,” Noem later said. “He’s gonna come here a lot if you get Bernie to be the victor on Tuesday.”

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Ultimately, Trump and his allies appear to be betting that the last-minute show of force will convince Trump-friendly undecided GOP voters to pull the lever for Moreno.

“I know Trump supports Moreno, so that’s probably who I’ll vote for,” Kimberly Curtis, a 58-year-old resident of Troy, Ohio told Business Insider at the rally. “I don’t really pay that close attention to the Senate stuff, it’s more the presidential stuff.”





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Ohio State president ‘will not compromise’ on safety as campuses face Gaza war protests

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Ohio State president ‘will not compromise’ on safety as campuses face Gaza war protests


In an end-of-the-semester email sent Monday afternoon to the campus community, Ohio State University President Ted Carter followed up on communication from over the weekend with a reminder of the university’s stances on protesting and free speech.

On Saturday, Ohio State said in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) that hate speech is “deplorable and does not align with our values, even if allowed under the First Amendment.”

The post came following a couple of campus protests in the past few days over the war in Gaza. Video clips from one of those protests were shared on an Instagram account belonging to StopAntisemitism — “a grassroots watchdog organization dedicated to exposing groups and individuals that espouse incitement towards the Jewish people and State and engage in antisemitic behaviors,” according to its website.

In his email, Carter said that college campuses “must be places where we can process these events through respectful discussion and debate.”

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“We are here together to learn from one another and hear new and different perspectives – including those with which we disagree,” he said.

Carter said he wants students, staff and faculty to stand up for what they believe in, and that Buckeyes should “dedicate ourselves to using our voices with civility and compassion.”

“I remain steadfastly committed to maintaining an environment where all members of our community feel welcome while continuing to uphold the First Amendment and the laws of our state and nation,” Carter said.

Cater added that Ohio State will “continue to prioritize safety”, including having university police officers and trained staff on-site for demonstrations, and enforcing space rules, that prohibit “intentional disruptions of university events, classes, exams or programming, including commencement.”

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Carter also warned that when protected speech becomes threatening, “Ohio State has and will always move quickly to enforce the law and university policy.”

“I will not compromise on this,” he added.

Carter asked that people consider their words wisely.

“Even if speech is protected, is it how you would talk to a member of your family or a friend?” he said. “Displays of hate speech on our campuses, even if allowed under the First Amendment, are reprehensible and do not align with our values. Ohio State must be a place where all are welcome and safe.”

Remarks come as campuses face protests nationwide

The Israel-Hamas War has sparked protests on college campuses across the country since violence broke out in October.

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More than 100 people were arrested last week for protesting Israel’s war in Gaza at Columbia University in New York City. Students were forcibly removed by police from tents pitched on lawns at the center of campus.

The Columbia students were part of student groups protesting the university’s financial investment in “corporations that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation in Palestine,” the group told USA Today.

Police in New Haven, Connecticut arrested several dozen protesters at Yale University Monday and charged them with trespassing a protest seeking for the university to divest from weapons manufacturers that supply Israel with arms.

Harvard University restricted access to Harvard Yard until Friday in anticipation of pro-Palestine student protests.

Sheridan Hendrix is a higher education reporter for The Columbus Dispatch. Sign up for Extra Credit, her education newsletter, here.

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shendrix@dispatch.com

@sheridan120





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Ohio sees most tornadoes in U.S. in 2024

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Ohio sees most tornadoes in U.S. in 2024


COLUMBUS, Ohio — According to data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Buckeye State has already seen more than 30 tornadoes in 2024. 


What You Need To Know

  • The 2024 tornado season did start earlier with the first tornadoes starting at the end of February
  • Updated radar technology is a factor in why it seems we’re seeing more tornadoes
  • Researchers can’t conclude quite yet if the early tornado season is a result of warmer winters and overall change in climate 

On average, Ohio sees about 21 tornadoes in a year. The state has already documented 35, and it’s only the beginning of the official tornado season. The Buckeye State saw several toward the end of February and through the month of March. Some might think the uptick in tornadoes is due to warmer winters and changes in our climate, but experts say it’s a combination of a few different factors. 

Tornadoes are often a result of retreating cool air and incoming warm air chasing each other with a combination of some sort of moisture. In Ohio’s case this year, the moisture is coming from the Gulf of Mexico. On average, Ohio sees about five to six tornadoes by the start of the season in April, but with a warmer winter this year we did see quite a few tornadoes early in the year. State Climatologist for Ohio Aaron Wilson said while the weather may have something to do with why we’re seeing tornadoes earlier, they’ve always been part of Ohio’s weather pattern. 

“Certainly there is a role to play with warmer winters, warmer springs, the ability for our jet stream to bring in weather patterns, to bring up more moisture from the gulf and mix and create these systems, but the weather pattern in and of itself, especially in March and April, this is not atypical for our region,” said Wilson.

Wilson said updated radar technology also plays a part. Switching from Doppler radar to dual polarization radar has allowed us to track small EF-0 and EF-1 tornadoes that might not have been picked up in the past. 

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“What that has allowed us to do is be able to detect a lot more tornadoes through radar and to detect EF1s and EF0s,” said Wilson. “These smaller, less intense tornadoes we’re actually witnessing or observed, I should say, observing more of those than maybe we did in the past before 19, certainly before 1990.”

The worst year for tornadoes in the state was 1992 when we saw 62 touch down.

While there are some years like 2005 or 2015 when we did not see much activity, it’s important to always have a plan in place and have a way to access severe weather coverage during tornado season. The season usually wraps up by around mid to late June. Click here to learn about the history of tornadoes in Ohio. 



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Ohioans say Petland sold them sick puppies. Lawmakers are trying to do something about it

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Ohioans say Petland sold them sick puppies. Lawmakers are trying to do something about it


Days after Macey Mullins took home her Jack Russell terrier, June, she noticed the puppy was urinating frequently and drinking an excessive amount of water.

Mullins got June from Petland in Lewis Center in 2020 and contacted the store with her concerns, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this year in Delaware County. Petland dismissed the behavior as “normal puppy things,” saying Mullins had purchased a healthy, 3-month-old dog − one who cost nearly $5,000.

June spent the following months in and out of the veterinarian’s office for urinary tract infections and other medical care. By the end of that year, the lawsuit stated, Mullins noticed June had lost weight, seemed lethargic and wasn’t eating a lot. Veterinarians eventually diagnosed the puppy with underdeveloped kidneys and a kidney infection.

It was too late. After an unsuccessful treatment, Mullins and her veterinarians decided to euthanize June. Petland, meanwhile, refused to reimburse Mullins for June’s medical bills and expected her to continue making monthly payments on her dead puppy, according to the lawsuit.

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Petland disputed the allegations in Mullins’ case, along with two other lawsuits filed in Franklin and Ross counties. Spokeswoman Maria Smith said the company never sources pets from puppy mills and offers a warranty to help customers who face unexpected veterinary costs. Pets undergoing medical treatment aren’t available for visits or sales until they’re healthy and cleared by a state veterinarian, Smith said.

But the Chillicothe-based national chain is now at the center of a debate over how pet stores in Ohio should be regulated.

“Some of these breeders and retailers are treating these dogs like any other commodity,” said Mark Finneran, Ohio state director for the Humane Society. “When you start to take that mindset, the welfare of the animals starts to fade to the background really quickly.”

How does Ohio handle pet stores, dog breeders?

Reps. Michele Grim, D-Toledo, and Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, introduced legislation that would allow municipalities to regulate pet stores in their communities. House Bill 443 seeks to undo current law − enacted in 2016 at Petland’s behest − that strips away local control and gives sole oversight to the state of Ohio.

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The bill’s backers say Ohio allows companies like Petland to take sick animals from puppy mills and sell them for thousands of dollars to customers who believe their new dog has a good bill of health. Finneran said “unscrupulous breeders” fail to test dogs for genetic illnesses and keep them in cramped spaces while their immune systems are still developing.

“It fuels the puppy mill to pet store pipeline,” Grim said. “They’re cramped, they’re overbred. They’re in pretty filthy conditions. They’re often sold in stores like Petland. Many of them know that they’re sick or that there’s an issue with the dogs.”

The Ohio Department of Agriculture checks to make sure pet stores have each dog’s certificate of health signed by a veterinarian. A spokesperson said officials will inspect a business if they receive a complaint about the condition of animals being sold, and then report any welfare issues to local authorities.

The department also inspects high-volume dog breeders at least once a year. These facilities are supposed to be licensed under state law and must provide dogs with adequate nutrition and a clean, comfortable space. In- and out-of-state breeders are required to verify that they meet these standards when selling dogs to pet stores.

Animal welfare advocates say Ohio’s laws aren’t strong enough to crack down on puppy mills or dishonest pet stores. A 2023 report from the Humane Society highlighted 13 Ohio breeders that failed inspections due to injured dogs, small cages and unsanitary conditions, including excessive feces. Some facilities were referred for legal action or eventually came into compliance, the report states, but others have been repeat offenders.

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Smith accused the Humane Society and other groups of misleading the public about Petland to serve their own bottom line.

“Ohio currently has some of the strongest, if not the strongest set of regulations to protect animal welfare, while allowing reputable businesses to provide Ohioans with a safe choice when it comes to finding the pet that will be most suited to the individual or family,” Smith said.

‘It’s just heart-wrenching’

In response to the controversy over Petland, municipalities like Grove City tried to step in and address the issue themselves.

As Petland prepared to open a store there in 2016, the Grove City Council passed a resolution that would have prohibited the company from selling animals it obtained from high-volume breeders. Instead, Petland would need to get dogs from local animal shelters or rescue organizations.

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The move prompted lawsuits against Grove City and four councilmembers, which the company dismissed after successfully lobbying for the ban on local regulation. The sponsor of the city’s policy, Ted Berry, said he still gets calls today from people who had negative experiences with Petland.

If the proposal from Grim and Carruthers passes, Berry said he would reintroduce his resolution in a heartbeat.

“It’s just heart-wrenching,” Berry said. “People love these animals, and they’re members of their family. Come to find out many have been raised in horrible conditions.”

The bill’s fate is uncertain. It had its first hearing last week, and the chairman of that committee − Rep. Bob Peterson, R-Washington Court House − sponsored the 2016 legislation to preempt local bans. Peterson declined to comment on House Bill 443 and said committee members will decide which bills to prioritize in the coming weeks.

“I think we need to draw attention to the fact that Petland, for some reason, has a lot of power,” Grim said. “That should really trouble a lot of people.”

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Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.



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