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Balderson and O’Connor to Face Off in Ohio Special Election for Tiberi Seat

Establishment GOP candidates win in 12th and 16th districts

The nominees for the special election to fill the seat of former Rep. Pat Tiberi are now set. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The nominees for the special election to fill the seat of former Rep. Pat Tiberi are now set. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ohio Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor, the Franklin County recorder, will face off in the August special election to fill former GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi’s seat in the 12th District.

Balderson won the GOP primary with 29 percent of the vote, finishing narrowly ahead of Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan, who had 28 percent. The fight between them had become a traditional Republican proxy war.

Balderson consolidated most of the mainstream Republican support in the crowded primary. He was endorsed by the Republican Main Street Partnership and benefited from ads run by the group’s super PAC, Defending Main Street. He also had the backing of Tiberi, who cut an ad for him.

Leneghan was backed by the House Freedom Fund, the political arm of the House Freedom Caucus. The group’s founder, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, also endorsed her and cut an ad for her. Meanwhile, Club for Growth Action ran ads against Balderson. 

On the Democratic side, O’Connor topped a seven-way primary field with 41 percent of the vote. 

Voters actually voted twice on Tuesday’s ballot — for the Aug. 7 special election for Tiberi’s remaining term and the regular November election for the next two-year term. They chose the same two candidates for both races and both drew similar vote percentages in each contest.

Tiberi resigned in January to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable. Democrats are making a serious bid for his seat, having added it to their target list after he first announced his resignation. The district, which includes suburbs of Columbus and rural areas, voted for President Donald Trump by 11 points in 2016 and has a history of electing moderate, business-friendly Republicans, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who held the seat before Tiberi.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the special election Tilts Republican, noting that Democratic enthusiasm and dissatisfaction with Trump, particularly in well-educated, suburban communities, could help the party do well here.

Ohio’s 16th District  

Voters in Ohio’s 16th District also chose their nominees to face off in November for the seat of Rep. James B. Renacci, who won the GOP Senate nomination Tuesday night. 

Former NFL player Anthony Gonzalez won the Republican nod for the largely rural seat, which includes some Cleveland and Canton suburbs.  

Gonzalez defeated state Rep. Christina Hagan 53 percent to 41 percent. Hagan was backed by the House Freedom Fund, the political arm of the Freedom Caucus.

Gonzalez was seen as the establishment choice and had the support of the state’s GOP senator, Rob Portman. He will face Democrat Susan Moran Palmer in November after the health care executive Susan Moran Palmer won a six-way race with 35 percent of the vote.

Inside Elections rates the general election race Solid Republican.

Watch: Democrats Have At Least 20 House Takeover Opportunities in These 4 States

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