LIVE UPDATES: Big stakes in West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio bellwether primaries

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The candidates who emerge victorious from a fierce faceoff Tuesday night in tough and pricey primary battles in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia will provide critical clues into which party might eventually gain control of the U.S. House and Senate in November.

In the closely watched West Virginia GOP Senate primary, establishment Republicans are hoping to stop the momentum of former coal baron, Don Blankenship, in a race that has been filled with sharp-tongued barbs, questionable comments about ethnicity, and tweeted rebukes from President Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., among others.

Over in the Indiana Senate primary, Republicans are fighting over who is the Trumpiest of Trump supporters in a race that has featured cardboard cutouts of opponents and a lovefest via Twitter of all things Trump.

In Ohio’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, candidates are leaning left in the hopes of wooing progressives.

7:22 p.m. – AP projects Greg Pence wins GOP nomination for Indiana congressional seat once held by brother, Vice President Mike Pence

In one of the races ABC News is watching tonight, AP projects that Republican Greg Pence — the older brother of Vice President Mike Pence — in Indiana’s 6th Congressional District, has a strong lead in his bid for his brother’s old seat.

PHOTO: Greg Pence, Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, arrives at a primary-night watch party, May 8, 2018 in Columbus, Indiana. Pence is the older brother of Vice President Mike Pence.Scott Olson/Getty Images
Greg Pence, Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, arrives at a primary-night watch party, May 8, 2018 in Columbus, Indiana. Pence is the older brother of Vice President Mike Pence.

With 17 percent of precincts reporting, Pence had 68 percent and Jonathan Lamb had 21 percent.

7:10 p.m. – The rest of the polls have closed in Indiana

Indiana voters now wait for results. Next, polls will close in North Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio.

6:30 p.m. – Scoop: Blankenship says he’ll defeat Manchin with a banner that reads “Beat Joe”

Controversial Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship isn’t taking the president’s anti-endorsement personally. And he’s already focused on West Virginia’s Democratic incumbent, Sen. Joe Manchin — who he said “will be easy to beat.”

In an interview with ABC News’ Tom Llamas, Blankenship said Manchin “killed himself” by opposing the Trump agenda. And this is his strategy: “Just hang up a banner: Beat Joe,” Blankenship said.

6:00 p.m. – First poll closure of the night: Indiana

Most polls in the Indiana primary closed at 6 p.m., EST. Some will close at 7 p.m. EST.

The state known for its “Hoosier hospitality” has seen a bitter and personal race in the lead up to the general when the Republican candidate will aim to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly. Two members of the House, Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, have known each other since college.

The third addition to the race is millionaire business owner Mike Braun.

Indiana is a state President Trump won by nearly 20 points. Vice President Mike Pence previously served as governor. All of the Republican candidates say they are the top pick for backing the Trump agenda.

While the field of candidates is not big, a lack of polling makes it difficult to pin down a definite front-runner.

5:42 p.m. – Candidates make final push for voters to cast their ballots

In West Virginia, sitting Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who will have to fight for his seat in the midterms, tweeted two hours before the polls closed.

And in Indiana, Rep. Todd Rokita, a Republican candidate running for the Indiana Senate seat:

And in Ohio, Dennis Kucinich — the “boy mayor” who served Cleveland as the youngest mayor in city history at 31, a former Democratic congressman and a former presidential candidate:

5:28 p.m. – Does Mitch McConnell have a reaction to Blankenship’s “Chinapeople” ad?

Short answer: Wait and see.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he’s going to wait until after the election results are in before he comments on an ad released by Republican candidate Don Blankenship that accused McConnell of creating jobs “for Chinapeople,” a description many saw as racially-offensive.

PHOTO: Don Blankenship, who is running for the Republican nomination for Senate in West Virginia, attends a town hall meeting at Macados restaurant in Bluefield, W.Va., May 3, 2018. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images
Don Blankenship, who is running for the Republican nomination for Senate in West Virginia, attends a town hall meeting at Macado’s restaurant in Bluefield, W.Va., May 3, 2018.

Last week, Blankenship, a Republican candidate in the West Virginia Senate race and a former CEO of a coal company with a misdemeanor conviction, released an ad featuring an insult aimed directly at McConnell and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

“We’re gonna find out what happens in West Virginia tonight and I may have more to say on that tomorrow,” McConnell said. He also wouldn’t say whether the Republican Party would support Blankenship should he win the primary.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer — the top Democrat in the Senate — echoed McConnell, saying he wouldn’t speculate until the winner is announced. Mariam Khan

4:00 p.m. – The disruptive coal man from West Virginia

Several of today’s primary races have already gained national attention, but none more so than the three-way Republican battle for the Senate in West Virginia.

At the center of the drama is Don Blankenship, a former Massey Energy CEO who was convicted of a misdemeanor for conspiring to violate mine safety regulations after its Upper Big Branch Mine exploded, killing 29.

Blankenship is running against Republican Congressman Evan Jenkins and current state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and has cast himself as a political outsider willing to take on Washington establishment. On Monday Blankenship even took jabs at President Trump, who implored West Virginians not to vote for him.

Read more here.

3:58 p.m. – What can Tuesday night’s primaries tell us about the midterms?

What insights might tonight’s primaries offer on the broader midterms?


Loyalty to the president is a central issue in the Republican primaries, and GOP candidates across all four states are aiming to prove to voters that they are the true Trump ally.

“In these Republican primaries under the current Senate map, loyalty to Trump is the number one cause. It’s the number one issue,” said Leah Askarinam, a reporter, and analyst at Inside Elections, a nonpartisan outlet that analyzes House, Senate, gubernatorial and presidential campaigns, “These candidates have spent the last several months tying themselves as closely as possible to the president. It’s unclear if that will work in a general election. Most of these states did support Trump by more than just a few points.”

The GOP is holding on to a razor-thin 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate and Democrats are defending ten states that voted for Trump in 2016, and both parties are keenly aware that avoiding unforced missteps and nominating quality candidates is the difference between a Senate majority or minority.

Read more in John Verhovek’s story here.

3:56 p.m. – Voters in Indiana talk Trump

While the Indiana Senate race serves as a chance for Republicans to bolster their majority in the Senate by unseating a vulnerable Democrat in a red state, some Republican voters in Indiana are saying a front-runner is hard to pinpoint, even though polls close in just a few hours. Multiple voters said they varied between backing Rep. Todd Rokita, Rep. Luke Messer, and businessman Mike Braun.

What these voters are sure about is backing President Trump’s agenda. In many cases, voters have said they like the President’s policies, even though they may not like his personal style.

One voter from Carmel, Indiana, said the president has accomplished a lot while in office but added that he can be “petty.”

And another Carmel noted that she liked that Rokita put a “Make America Great Again” hat on in one of his commercials and talked about a border wall.

For reference — in 2016, Trump carried the state by nearly 20 points. Alisa Wiersema

3:54 p.m. – W. Va. candidate ‘tired of watching’ opioid crisis

Ayne Amjad works at the nexus of the opioid crisis and environmental hazards which residents say have caused their friends and neighbors to develop cancer.

The problem is felt especially acutely in the rural parts of West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District where Amjad — a somewhat accidental politician — saw patients every day struggling with the effects of the epidemic, high rates of cancer (sometimes explained away by some experts as lifestyle causes) and the high cost of healthcare.

“I just got tired of watching things go in a direction I didn’t like and I realized the only way you can change things is to get into politics,” she told ABC News, adding later. “I don’t think we handle it properly, the people making the decisions for drugs are not even healthcare professionals which drives me insane,” she said.

Amjad is one of seven Republicans running for the U.S. House seat held by Rep. Evan Jenkins in the primary election on Tuesday. Jenkins is running in the Republican Senate primary to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin.

Read more in Stephanie Ebbs’ story here.

3:54 p.m. – Don Blankenship at center of party-backed super PAC primary fight in West Virginia

Former coal mogul Don Blankenship is at the center of a party-backed, super PAC, Senate primary fight in West Virginia as groups with obscure names and undisclosed donors spend millions of dollars.

The proxy fight — an effort to sway the Republican primary by influencing whether Blankenship makes it onto the ballot in November — has made the Senate bid one of the most expensive races so far this year.

Democrats have rolled out six-figure ads attacking two GOP primary candidates Evan Jenkins and Patrick Morrisey through the Duty and Country super PAC.

Soorin Kim lays out the numbers here.

6:00 a.m. – What’s at stake in the first big primary day Of 2018

ABC News partner FiveThirtyEight offers a take on aspects of the races to watch. Check them out here.

WATCH LIVE TONIGHT: You can watch livestreaming coverage of all the primary action starting at 7 p.m. ET on or on the ABC News app available on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, Apple TV App Store, and Roku Channel Store.

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