Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor were locked in a tight battle for Ohio’s 12th district. The special election was August 7, but the race was too close to call.
The candidates traded leads multiple times after polls closed. With all precincts reporting, Balderson was ahead of O’Connor by about 1,700 votes. That’s a lead of 0.9 percentage points. Absentee and provisional ballots still need to be counted, so the total could still change. In the state of Ohio, elections decided by less than O.5 percent automatically trigger a recount. You can read more about the rules governing recounts here.
Danny O’Connor spoke to supporters Tuesday night. He rallied supporters and promised to keep fighting all the way until November. He did NOT concede the race. As stated above, the race was too close to call Tuesday night.
Troy Balderson also spoke Tuesday night. He commended O’Connor for running a tough race and expressed excitement to battle again in November.
That’s the main takeaway to remember about this special election: This is not over. Balderson and O’Connor will do this all over again in less than three months. It is important to remember that this was a special election to fill the open seat left vacant by Rep. Pat Tiberi. Balderson and O’Connor will be back on the ballot again in November for the general election. Therefore, it is possible that voters in Ohio 12th could see a repeat of this narrow-thin race.
The special election in Ohio’s 12th district has been viewed as a strong indicator of how the rest of the midterms will play out in November. It has also been viewed as a bellwether of sorts to determine how voters in the nation’s heartland feel about President Trump.
President Trump tweeted about the race Tuesday night. He took credit for mobilizing Republican voters in Ohio. He congratulated Balderson, even though a winner had not yet been decided. Trump tweeted, “When I decided to go to Ohio for Troy Balderson, he was down in early voting 64 to 36. That was not good. After my speech on Saturday night, there was a big turn for the better. Now Troy wins a great victory during a very tough time of the year for voting. He will win BIG in Nov.”
Ohio’s 12th District Has Been a Safe Republican District For More Than Three Decades
Ohio’s 12th district was not supposed to be up for grabs. A Democrat was not supposed to have a chance here. This congressional seat has been firmly in Republican control since 1983, when Ronald Reagan was in office. A Democrat has held the seat only twice in the last 100 years.
Representative Pat Tiberi, who resigned from this congressional seat after more than 16 years in office, won re-election in 2016 with 66 percent of the vote. The person who held the seat before him was none other than current governor John Kasich; he represented the 12th district from 1983 until 2011.
President Trump easily won the district by 11 points in the 2016 election. It is worth noting, however, that President Obama also secured the 12th district in 2008 but by a much smaller margin. He lost it to Mitt Romney in 2012.
Republicans far outspent Democrats in this special election. Spending estimates in support of Balderson totaled more than $5 million. The Democrats, on the other hand, spent only about $1 million to support O’Connor. The fact that Republicans felt the need to spend so much more money than Democrats was telling as well.
The District Includes Franklin and Delaware Counties Which Are Made Up of Affluent Suburbs
Danny O’Connor needed to have a strong showing in Franklin County, which is the home of capital city Columbus. Franklin County represents about a third of the district and has a large Democratic population. But it also includes more moderate Republicans, the type of people who tend to align more with the likes of John Kasich and John McCain than Donald Trump.
The district includes wealthy suburbs outside of the city, such as New Albany and Dublin. Neighboring Delaware County is Ohio’s wealthiest county. It has been staunchly Republican for more than 100 years. Delaware County has not supported a Democratic candidate for president since 1916. (To be extra clear, that last fact was about Delaware County only, not the 12th district overall).
The 12th district is more than 86 percent white with a median household income of more than $66,000. This is also a very well-educated district. Nearly 40 percent of voters over age 25 in Ohio’s 12th district have at least a bachelor’s degree.
These are the types of educated voters who have shown distaste for the Trump administration’s more controversial policies. They include people like Danny O’Connor’s own fiancee, Spenser Stafford who grew up in the suburb of Dublin. She is a lifelong Republican who represents the type of person O’Connor needed to sway in order to win this election: white, suburban and well-educated.
Troy Balderson did not help himself with a recent comment slamming Franklin County. He told supporters, “We don’t want someone from Franklin county representing us.” Balderson grew up in Zanesville. His family owns a farm. His popularity has resided with the rural areas of the district. But the choice to bash one-third of his potential voters did not appear to be a very smart move.
President Trump Stumped for Troy Balderson in Ohio Days Before the Election
The Ohio 12th district was personal for President Trump. As stated above, Trump won this district by double digits. He made a special trip to Ohio to campaign for Balderson just days before the election. The Balderson campaign has said the president’s visit helped excite voters and encouraged them to show up at the ballot box to support Balderson.
The Ohio 12th district seemed to be less about Troy Balderson’s record and more about Donald Trump. A Monmouth University poll conducted about a week before the August 7 election revealed just how much opinion of President Trump was influencing voters. 62 percent replied that it was “very important” that their vote in the 12th district showed either their support or opposition to the Trump administration.
Monmouth University: How important is it for you to cast a vote for Congress that shows your [support of/opposition to] President Trump? [7/26/18 to 7/31/18]
|Not Too Important or Not At All Important||10%|