COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – In Ohio’s 12th Congressional District’s special election, Republican Troy Balderson declared victory over Democrat Danny O’Connor in a race that election officials and O’Connor still see as too close to call Wednesday.
The winner will fill the seat vacated by Republican Pat Tiberi, who stepped down in January after nine terms to go to work for an Ohio business group. Tiberi’s current term that Balderson and O’Connor are vying for ends in December.
With all precincts reporting, Balderson holds a lead of 1,754 votes, a less than 1 percent margin of victory. But with about 3,400 provisional ballots and 5,000 absentee ballots still to be counted, that lead could change. Under Ohio law, these ballots cannot be officially counted until the 11th day after the election, Aug. 18. If Balderson’s lead drops to 0.5 percent, an automatic recount is triggered.
Balderson claimed victory in a statement to supporters, telling them, “I am honored for the opportunity to represent Ohio’s 12th Congressional District. I will work relentlessly for everyone in this district. Congratulations to Danny O’Connor on running a hard-fought race.”
President Donald Trump and the National Republican Congressional Committee also declared victory for Balderson.
Balderson, an Ohio legislator for the last nine years, is a Trump loyalist who also garnered the support of Ohio Governor Republican John Kasich, one of Trump’s most vocal Republican critics.
On the other side, O’Connor, Franklin County recorder, thanked supporters and his family Tuesday night, but did not concede.
The district has been a Republican stronghold, with the GOP holding the seat for the last 30 years. But low voter turnout in the rural, conservative areas of the district coupled with Democratic enthusiasm resulted in race that is still too close to call.
Balderson ran on a Republican agenda, supporting the GOP tax cuts, the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act and Trump’s border wall. While not shying away from his support of Trump, he tried to pull in those who may not like Trump by highlighting his Kasich endorsement, claiming that his campaign brought the Republican Party together.
O’Connor ran a campaign highlighting his willingness to reach across the aisle and “to help end the partisan dysfunction in Washington.” He focused on expanding health care coverage and the protection of Medicare and Social Security.
O’Connor dominated Balderson in advertising on the airwaves, spending more than $2 million compared to Balderson’s $507,000, according to the campaigns.
The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee and its super PAC did help Balderson’s campaign, spending over $4 million in funds for other advertising, with voters inundated by mail and phone calls.
Although the outcome of the election is still unknown, one thing is certain: these two candidates will meet again. In November, the two will again go head-to-head for the right to represent the 12th District for the full, two-year term.