Both parties are fighting hard to win a congressional re-match in Ohio between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor, with control of the U.S. House in the balance.
Polling shows O’Connor, the Franklin County recorder in Columbus, closing in on Balderson, a former state lawmaker who won short-term control of the 12th District seat in an August special election. O’Connor has also reported raising $7.8 million, including tens of thousands of out-of-state donations — more than triple Balderson’s contributions.
Still, a Democratic win is considered unlikely. Republicans have held the meandering central Ohio district for more than 35 years. GOP President Donald Trump won it in 2016 by more than 10 points.
Here’s what you need to know about the race:
Q: Why is the race getting so much attention?
A: It became a rare open congressional seat after the retirement in January of long-serving Republican incumbent Pat Tiberi. Tiberi is among a group of moderate Republicans who left Congress under Trump. His predecessor representing the district was Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a vocal Trump detractor and 2016 presidential candidate. Their popularity with district voters suggests Republicans there are divided over the president, making the seat vulnerable to a Democrat who, like O’Connor, has supported some Republican ideas. He’s engaged to a Republican who calls herself a “Dannycrat,” signaling she supports her Democratic fiance.
Q: What are the notable endorsements in the race?
A: Trump campaigned for Balderson ahead of the special election, giving the race a last-minute boost in visibility ahead of his 0.8-percent win over O’Connor in August. The president isn’t planning a return trip, as yet, but Trump’s affiliated PAC has announced it will spend $1 million on the race before Election Day. Kasich also appeared in ads for Balderson during the special election. “It’s unique to Troy Balderson that he’s able to get support from both,” said Balderson campaign manager Jenna Knepper.
O’Connor has twice won the endorsement of the district’s largest newspaper, the traditionally conservative Columbus Dispatch. The paper said in July both candidates were “decent, successful men,” but that it picked O’Connor in part because Balderson supports “a president who uses tactics and pushes policies that this Editorial Board has denounced.”
Q: What are some of the policy issues in the race?
A: Balderson stands behind Trump’s agenda, including the Republican tax cut and the building of a border wall along the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico. O’Connor backs a $15 minimum wage, wants infrastructure improvements and strong border security enforcement in lieu of constructing the wall.
Balderson would vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but says he favors insurance protections for those with pre-existing conditions. He also would raise the ages of eligibility for Medicare and Social Security. O’Connor supports the federal health care law, commonly known as Obamacare, and its Medicaid expansion, which Balderson has opposed.
Q: Are there any other tight congressional races in the state this year?
A: Yes, several others are being closely watched: the Cincinnati-area 1st District, where Republican Rep. Steve Chabot is facing Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval; central Ohio’s 15th District, where Republican incumbent Steve Stivers, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, faces Democrat Rick Neal, a long-time activist; and the sprawling 7th District, where incumbent Republican Bob Gibbs faces a challenge from Democrat Ken Harbaugh, a Navy pilot and former president of the veterans training organization Team Rubicon Global.
Former President Barack Obama plugged Pureval at a rally in Cleveland and he’s endorsed Neal. He’s also backing small business owner and Democrat Jill Schiller in her longshot bid against Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup in the 2nd District.