- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Ohio is pulsing with election activity ahead of Tuesday’s critical winner-take-all presidential primary.

Among the activity, Republican Gov. John Kasich is seeking the first state win of his 2016 presidential campaign and former Gov. Ted Strickland is trying to beat his Democratic primary challengers in his bid for U.S. Senate.

Here are some things to know about Tuesday’s contests:

PRESIDENTIAL POSITIONING

Establishment Republicans are looking to Kasich to win in Ohio and take all 66 delegates as part of a strategy to stop the momentum of front-runner Donald Trump.

Kasich, sounding a unifying message, was campaigning Monday with 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Kasich’s home-state bid was helped by rival Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who urged his Ohio supporters to pull the lever for Kasich if they hope for a chance to stop Trump. The New York billionaire, statistically tied with Kasich in some late polling, planned a rally in the Youngstown area later Monday.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont rallied supporters in Youngstown and Akron, predicting he could best rival Hillary Clinton - as he did in Michigan - if turnout is high. Clinton stumped across the state all weekend, including headlining a Democratic dinner and town hall on Sunday. Sanders joined a successful legal fight last week that allowed 17-year-olds to vote in the presidential primary.

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SENATE STANDOFF

One-term governor Strickland, who’s 74, is widely viewed as one of the Democratic party’s best chances to unseat a sitting Republican senator, Rob Portman of Cincinnati, this fall. However, he has faced an unexpectedly lively challenge from P.G. Sittenfeld, a 31-year-old Cincinnati councilman who benefited from the spending of a super PAC and some support among local Democrats. Cincinnati’s Kelli Prather also is running for the party nomination.

State Democrats endorsed Strickland early in anticipation of a nasty and expensive fight for the seat as the GOP seeks to hold onto its Senate majority. Sittenfeld has campaigned for tougher gun control in an effort to distinguish himself from both Strickland and Portman. In the final weeks of the campaign, Strickland landed key endorsements from former Rep. Gabby Giffords, a gun violence victim, and the president and vice president.

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OHIO LEGISLATURE

Six Republican and four Democratic incumbents are defending their state House seats, as two veteran lawmakers look to return to the House.

Republican Larry Householder, a former House speaker, says unfinished business on policy matters led him to run again in his eastern Ohio district. Householder faces Coshocton City Council President Cliff Biggers in the GOP primary.

Tom Patton of Strongsville is one of four term-limited Republican state senators seeking to switch chambers, though he’s the only one with a primary.

Patton’s seemingly smooth bid hit some bumps in January after he called his female primary opponent “sweetie” and questioned Republican candidate Jennifer Herold’s interest in serving in the Legislature while she is raising young children.

In the Senate, four sitting Republicans have challengers. Republican Sen. Larry Obhof of Medina is competing against Janet Folger Porter, an activist from Hinckley who’s behind strict abortion legislation known as the heartbeat bill.

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HIGH COURT

Two Ohio Supreme Court justices are required to retire next year under state age limits. That’s opened the door to a partisan contest for one of their seats.

In the Republican primary, 1st Ohio District Court of Appeals Judge Pat Fischer of Cincinnati faces Colleen O’Toole, a judge on the 11th Ohio District Court of Appeals in Warren.

The winner of that race will face Democrat John P. O’Donnell, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge, in the fall.

There is no primary for the second open seat. Democrat Cynthia Rice, a judge for the 11th District in Warren, is set to face Republican Pat DeWine, of Cincinnati’s 1st District, in November. He’s the son of Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, also is on Tuesday ballots. She’s unopposed in both the primary and the general election this year.

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Associated Press writer Ann Sanner contributed to this report.

Follow Julie Carr Smyth at https://www.twitter.com/jcarrsmyth .

Some of her recent work can be found at: https://bigstory.ap.org/content/julie-carr-smyth .


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