Prizm News / August 8, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
Human Rights Campaign supporters were visible at Democrat Danny O’Connor’s campaign headquarters Tuesday night. (HRC photo via Twitter)




A one-point margin in the 12th District puts four other Ohio congressional districts in play for November.


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By Bob Vitale 

Democrats appear to have fallen short in a special congressional election in the heart of Ohio, but folks from both parties—and the journalists in between—say the results don’t bode well for the victorious Republicans.

The swing Tuesday of more than 10 percentage points toward the Democrats—Donald Trump carried the 12th Congressional District in 2016 by 11.3 percentage points, while Troy Balderson’s lead was less than one—would flip almost 70 other Republican-held seats if it’s replicated nationwide in November.

Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Florida, a Republican who has been highly critical of Trump and his party, said on MSNBC: “I think it’s safe to say tonight that Democrats should begin having conversations of who they want to be speaker of the House.”

Democratic consultant Amanda Wurst of Columbus said on the same network: “This should not be a race. The fact we’re watching precinct by precinct in Delaware County is incredible.”

And the Washington website Politico weighed in: “The photo finish…in what has been a solid-GOP district shouldn’t provide much comfort for the party as it clings to an increasingly fragile House majority.”

The 10-point swing wasn’t enough, though, for Democrat Danny O’Connor. The 31-year-old Franklin County recorder trailed Balderson, a state senator from Zanesville, by 1,754 votes in final, unofficial totals. Provisional ballots have yet to be counted; if they reduce Balderson’s lead from 0.9 percent to 0.5 percent or less, it would trigger a recount under Ohio law.

Voters in the seven-county 12th District went to the polls to choose a new U.S. representative to replace Republican Pat Tiberi, who resigned in January to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable. It’s an historically Republican part of the state. A Democrat has been elected just once there in the last 80 years.

The winner will go to Washington only through the end of the year. Balderson and O’Connor also are running against each other in the Nov. 6 general election for a full-two term.

All 15 of Ohio’s seats in the U.S. House are on the ballot in November, and Tuesday’s 10-percentage-point shift could put more of them in play:

  • In the 1st Congressional District, Republican incumbent Steve Chabot faces a challenge from Hamilton County Clerk of Courts AftabPureval. Trump won the district, which includes much of Cincinnati, by 6.6 percentage points in 2016.
  • In the 10th Congressional District, where Trump won by 7.3 percentage points in 2016, Republican incumbent Mike Turner faces a challenge from former Republican, nowDemocratTheresa Gasper. The district includes all of Dayton and its suburbs.
  • In the 14th District, which stretches from Cleveland’s eastern suburbs to Ashtabula, Democrat Betsy Rader is challenging incumbent Republican Dave Joyce. Trump carried the district by 11.5 percentage points.
  • In the 15th District, which stretches from Columbus east to Athens and south to Wilmington, openly gay Democrat Rick Neal is taking on Republican Steve Stivers, whois in charge ofhis party’s national efforts to keep control of the House. Trump won the district by 15.4 percentage points.

The Human Rights campaign endorsed O’Connor and has endorsed him, Pureval, Rader and Neal in November’s contests.

HRC has made Ohio a key state in a nationwide campaign designed to identify “equality-minded” voters across the country and urge them to support pro-LGBTQ candidates. HRC Rising says there are 1.5 million equality-minded voters in Ohio.

Neal said the results Tuesday were encouraging to him and his supporters. The 15th and 12th congressional districts share a similar makeup: portions of heavily Democratic Columbus, once-Republican suburbs that are turning more progressive, small towns and rural communities.

The 15th District also includes Ohio State and Ohio universities.

“It’s going to tweak our field work for sure,” Neal said of lessons that will come from Tuesday’s special election. “But the results show everything we’ve known about this race all along. This is close. So you get out there and you talk to everybody.”


Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.