Republican Troy Balderson Wins Ohio Special Election

Balderson and O’Connor will face off again in November

Republican Troy Balderson celebrates after giving his victory speech at his election night party on Aug. 7. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)

Republican Troy Balderson won the special election in Ohio’s 12th District, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Balderson, a two-term state senator, defeated Democrat Danny O’Connor, the Franklin County recorder.

The election, which was held on Aug. 7 to fill the open seat left by former Rep. Pat Tiberi, was too close to call on election night. But that didn’t stop Balderson, and the many outside groups buoying his campaign, from declaring victory that night.

Balderson will face O’Connor again in November when the two run against each other for a full two-year term. 

O’Connor said in a statement Friday that he called Balderson to congratulate him on his victory. But he said his team “is just getting started.”

“We have eleven weeks to keep talking to voters, listening to their ideas, and to bring home a win for working families in Central Ohio this November,” O’Connor said. 

O’Connor outraised and outspent Balderson, forcing Republican outside groups to prop up the GOP nominee much as they have in previous special elections in red districts since President Donald Trump’s election. Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC allied with House GOP leadership, spent more than $3.3 million on the 12th District special election.

Balderson had the support of Trump, who held a rally for him the weekend before the election, and an endorsement — albeit late in the game — from Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who’s frequently criticized Trump.

The 12th District is Kasich’s old seat and has traditionally elected moderate, pro-business Republicans. Trump carried the district by 11 points in 2016.

Democrats celebrated the fact that they came so close in such a Republican seat and forced GOP outside groups to spend money here that they would have preferred to save for other races in November. There are many more districts where Trump earned a smaller share of the vote that are up for grabs in November.

Democratic strategists also see the closeness of the race as validation of their message, particularly against the GOP tax overhaul. O’Connor cast it as a corporate giveaway that would require cuts from Social Security and Medicare. Like an increasing number of Democratic candidates this cycle, he refused corporate PAC contributions and said he would not vote for Nancy Pelosi for party leader if he made it to the House.

Still, Republicans tried tying O’Connor to Pelosi and only intensified those attacks after he was pushed by MSNBC host Chris Matthews about whether he’d support her in a final vote if she was the Democrats’ choice for speaker. O’Connor said he’d support whomever Democrats put forward, but his campaign later maintained that he never thought that would be Pelosi. 

A major takeaway for Republicans in this race was that the anti-Pelosi playbook still works. That belief was evident in the numerous statements and ads CLF has released since the Aug. 7 election tying other Democratic nominees to the Democratic leader.

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