- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Republican Troy Balderson held a narrow lead over Democrat Danny O’Connor with returns from all precincts in, and he claimed victory Tuesday night in the barn burner of a special election race for an open U.S. House seat in Ohio.

With 100 percent of the precincts counted, Mr. Balderson, a state senator, was clinging to lead of 50.1 percent to 49.2 percent over Mr. O’Connor, Franklin County recorder.

Mr. Balderson and other Republicans claimed victory late Tuesday night, though no news organizations called the race and there remained an unknown number of provisional ballots still to be counted.

“Tonight I am going to promise to you that I am going to work relentlessly, relentlessly for this 12th Congressional District,” Mr. Balderson said at his election night party in Newark. “America is on the right path, and we are going keep it going that way.”

“Over the next three months I am going to do everything I can to Make America Great Again,” he said.

Mr. O’Connor, though, suggested the race was not over.

“Can you believe how close this is? We are in a tie ballgame, and you made this possible,” he told supporters. “This fight continues.”

Mr. Balderson’s 0.9 percent margin, representing less than 2,000 votes, is slightly greater than the 0.5 percent gap that would trigger an automatic recount, though a losing candidate can still call for one.

Both major parties were prepared to spin the outcome of a narrow Republican win, with the GOP to hold it up as proof that voters have not soured on President Trump, and Democrats touting how Mr. O’Connor narrowly captured a seat in a reliably red district that Mr. Trump won by 11 points in 2016 and Republicans have held since 1983.

Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, declared victory for Mr. Balderson, and accused House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and liberal donors of flooding “this district with money and ads in an attempt to buy this seat.”

“However, Troy’s focus never wavered from the issues central Ohioans care about like fighting opioids, creating jobs, and lowering taxes,” he said.

GOP aligned groups sunk more than $5 million into the race, while outside groups backing the Democrat invested more than $1 million.

The contest was likely the last special election before the November midterm election, where control of the Senate and House are up for grabs.

Heading into the race, Democrats needed to flip 23 seats to win the House this fall.

Mr. Trump went all-in for Mr. Balderson and urged his supporters Tuesday to head to the polls, warning that Mr. O’Connor is “controlled by Nancy Pelosi, is weak on Crime, the Border, Military, Vets, your 2nd Amendment — and will end your Tax Cuts.”

The president also traveled to the district over the weekend in an attempt to give Mr. Balderson a boost.

On Tuesday night, he appeared to take credit for the Culberson win amid the congratulations.

“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 wrote on Twitter.

The special election in Ohio coincided with with a series of primaries for Senate, House and gubernatorial nominations in Kansas, Missouri, Michigan and Washington.

Mr. Trump’s fingerprints were on several of the contests, including in Kansas where he threw his support behind Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the White House’s now defunct voter commission, in his race against Gov. Jeff Colyer, who took over after Gov. Sam Brownback resigned to accept an ambassadorship.

“Kris Kobach, a strong and early supporter of mine, is running for Governor of the Great State of Kansas,” Mr. Trump wrote Monday on Twitter. “He is a fantastic guy who loves his State and our Country — he will be a GREAT Governor and has my full & total Endorsement! Strong on Crime, Border & Military.”

With 94.8 percent of the precincts counted in that race, Mr. Kobach held a slight lead of 40.7 percent over Mr. Colyer’s 40.5 percent, Politico reported Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, Trump-backed candidates in the Missouri and Michigan Senate races — Josh Hawley and John James, respectively — won their battles for the GOP nomination.

Mr. Hawley, the Missouri attorney general, advances to face Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in one of the most anticipated races this fall. Mr. James, an Iraq war veteran, will seek to unseat Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow in Michigan.

“Josh Hawley has established himself as a conservative champion for Missouri families, and we have no doubt he will beat Claire McCaskill this November,” said Chris Hansen, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “McCaskill’s career of siding with D.C. liberals over Missouri voters is over, and Missourians will have a senator who will put their interests first in Josh Hawley.”

The seat in Ohio opened up after Rep. Pat Tiberi resigned to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable.

But political observers said the fact the race was so close in a district that Democrats have not held since Ronald Reagan was president was notable.

“If in fact the Democrat comes within 2 or 3 points of winning, even though he is losing the seat, the Democratic Party, you could argue convincingly, has actually won the night,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said on CNN.

The stakes were also high Tuesday for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newest socialist star, made several endorsements in Tuesday’s primaries.

James Thompson, their pick in Kansas’ 4th Congressional District, won his race and will run against Rep. Ron Estes in the general election. Brent Welder, meanwhile, was leading the Democratic primary in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.

But they came out on the losing side of the primary races in Missouri, where Rep. Lacy Clay defeated insurgent Cori Bush in the 1st Congressional District, and in the governor’s race in Michigan.

Former state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, who had support form Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood, defeated Abdul El-Sayed, who had the backing of numerous liberal groups and campaigned with Mr. Sanders and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.

Ms. Whitmer is slated to face Attorney General Bill Schuette, who won the GOP nomination after winning the early support of Mr. Trump.

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