Ohio special election on knife edge as Republicans fight to keep control

Republican Troy Balderson (L) with Donald Trump

A traditionally Republican district of Ohio that has only elected a Democrat once since the Roosevelt Administration is seen as a tossup in Tuesday’s special election – the latest in a series of once-safe seats the party has been forced to defend ahead of November’s midterms.

The race for Ohio’s Twelfth Congressional District, which is a dead heat in public polling, pits Republican Troy Balderson, a state senator from the rural eastern edge of the district, against Democrat Danny O’Connor, who is an elected official in Franklin County, which is the largest county in the state. The special election was prompted by the resignation of longtime incumbent Republican Pat Tiberi to take a private sector job.

The district centers on the prosperous, traditionally conservative suburbs of Columbus, the home base of Governor John Kasich. It was one of the few parts of Ohio to swing towards Hillary Clinton in 2016 as many well-educated Republican voters looked askance at Trump.

Balderson ended the race in an unusual manner: standing on a flatbed truck and speaking to a crowd in his parochial hometown of Zanesville, he cast aspersions on much of the rest of the district. “My opponent is from Franklin County and Franklin County has been challenging for us,” Balderson told the crowd. “We don’t want somebody from Franklin County representing us.”

Franklin County makes up roughly a third of the district.

In addition, when talking about his primary win, he described it in geographic terms. “We beat Franklin County. We beat Delaware County.”

Delaware County is the second largest county in the district and is considered the swing county in Tuesday.

The event was not advertised to the national media, which was deliberate. Balderson bragged “we were trying to keep the national media out of it because the national media doesn’t always understand what it’s like to be in the 12th congressional district so they come in here for a week or so, kind of see and get a pulse of what the communities are doing and they leave.”

Balderson’s aversion to talking to national outlets has been so pronounced that he only did his first interview with Fox News on Sunday, 48 hours before polls closed with a reporter who happened to be in the state.

In contrast, at an event in a crowded campaign office on Monday afternoon, O’Connor hailed the grassroots volunteers who would be knocking on doors from him.

After an introduction from actress Kathryn Hahn, the…

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