Trump-Backed Candidate Holds Narrow Lead in Ohio House Contest

Republican Troy Balderson was clinging to a narrow lead in Tuesday’s special election for an Ohio U.S. House seat that tested President Donald Trump’s influence against a surge of Democratic voter enthusiasm ahead of the November congressional elections.

Balderson had 50.2 percent of the votes to Democrat Danny O’Connor’s 49.3 percent, a spread of just 1,754 votes, with all precincts reporting. Several thousand provision ballots remained to be counted and that could shift the margin.

Balderson declared victory in a speech to supporters Tuesday night, thanking Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their visits to the district.

“America is on the right path,” Balderson said. “Over the next three months, I’m going to do everything I can to keep America great again.”

Trump campaigned for Balderson in Ohio on Saturday and reinforced his support with a tweet on election day that disparaged O’Connor as “controlled” by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Though the race hadn’t been declared late Tuesday, Trump took credit in a tweet, saying “there was a big turn for the better” after his Saturday appearance.

Republicans had pulled out all the stops for Balderson, a sign of how precarious the GOP position was in the contest for a district that the party has held since 1983. In addition to campaign appearances by Trump and Pence, Balderson had the backing of Ohio’s GOP governor, John Kasich, and Republican Senator Rob Portman.

Warning Signal

The slender margin is a warning sign for Republicans as they try to hold their House majority in the face of a historical trend of the president’s party losing seats in midterm elections and Trump’s persistently low public approval ratings. Former Representative Pat Tiberi, who held the Ohio seat until retiring in January to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable, won by an average of 35 points since it was redrawn after the 2010 census. Trump carried the district by 11 points in 2016.

Whatever the outcome, there will be a rematch between Balderson and O’Connor to win a full term on Nov. 6 when the entire House and one-third of the Senate are on the general election ballot.

“We made our case for change. We’re going to make that case tomorrow. We’re not stopping now,” O’Connor told supporters late Tuesday at his headquarters. “Tomorrow we rest. And then we keep fighting through to November. Let’s go out there. Let’s get it done!”

The ballots still to be counted include 1,349 provisional ballots in Franklin County, the most populous in the district, according to the country elections board, and where O’Connor had his best showing. There are 2,000 provisional votes in other counties. They are cast by voters who move and don’t update their registration or don’t appear in poll books for some reason.

In Ohio, provisional ballots can’t be counted for 10 days to allow for voter eligibility to be verified. State law calls for an automatic recount if the margin is less than 0.5 percent of the total vote cast.

O’Connor dominated absentee voting, including winning 80 percent of the early balloting in Franklin County and 60 percent in Delaware, according to unofficial returns. He carried the overall vote in his home Franklin by more than 21,700 votes and 65 percent of the vote, but Balderson easily won the rural areas and other counties in the district to overcome that advantage.

The Ohio special election was the most watched contest on a day when primaries were held for state and federal offices in Michigan, Kansas, Missouri and Washington.

Source: Read Full Article