COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – After more than two weeks of waiting, President Donald Trump’s preferred candidate Troy Balderson was declared the winner Friday in the Ohio 12th Congressional District special election.
Balderson, a Republican, held a less than 1 percent lead on Election Day, making the 3,400 provisional ballots and 5,000 absentee ballots very much in play.
Under Ohio law, the official count of these ballots couldn’t officially begin until the 11th day after the election, which was Aug. 18. On Friday, Franklin County was the last vote to be certified, handing victory to Balderson.
He fills the seat vacated in January by Republican Pat Tiberi, who stepped down after nine terms to go to work for an Ohio business group. Balderson’s current term will end in December, when he will face the same Democratic opponent again for a full term.
Balderson, an Ohio legislator for the last nine years, is a Trump loyalist who also garnered the support of Ohio Governor John Kasich, one of Trump’s most vocal Republican critics.
Balderson ran on an agenda of 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 his campaign brought the Republican Party together.
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 was too close to call on Election Day.
Balderson’s opponent was Democrat Danny O’Connor, Franklin County recorder, who 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.
Balderson’s victory gives him an edge over O’Connor going into the November election, when the two will face off again for the right to represent the 12th District for a full, two-year term.