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At the Races: O-H-I-O

Our weekly newsletter on congressional campaigns

Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter by subscribing here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. —Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman

This week: A special election in Ohio tightened, campaigns grappled with cybersecurity and Tennesseans head to the polls.


August isn’t usually for politicking. But all eyes are on the Buckeye State this weekend ahead of next week’s House special election. From left, Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, make symbols that spell
August isn’t usually for politicking. But all eyes are on the Buckeye State this weekend ahead of next week’s House special election. From left, Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, make symbols that spell “Ohio” at the Senate steps on Jan. 13, 2015, as part of a football bet. Ohio State beat the University of Oregon 42-20 in the national championship. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Starting Gate

Thank God This Is The Last One: Special election, that is. Voters in Ohio’s 12th District head to the polls Tuesday to pick a new member of Congress. (Former Republican Rep. Pat Tiberi resigned earlier this year.) It’s an increasingly tightening race, with a steady stream of GOP surrogates — including President Donald Trump this weekend — visiting the district. Polling still shows Republican Troy Balderson ahead, but Democrat Danny O’Connor has been closing the gap, even as the Congressional Leadership Fund hammers him on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Luckily for those of you who just can’t get enough of this race, the two candidates will face off again in November.

*BOOKMARK* Tiberi is one of 12 Republicans who have resigned this Congress. Check out who else headed for an early exit with Roll Call’s Departing Members list.

Can’t Hack It? If you’ve been paying any attention to the news lately you’ve probably heard that officials are expecting Russians to meddle in the midterms. One way they can do that is by hacking into individual campaigns and party organizations. Campaign committees and other groups concerned about this are taking action, but some are worried that campaigns themselves aren’t doing enough to fend off cyberattacks.

If it’s Thursday … It’s primary day in Tennessee. Most of the attention has been on the Republican gubernatorial primary, but there’s plenty of action at the congressional level on the GOP side, too. If you’re feeling lazy, here are three big things to watch. And if you want to immerse yourself in the wilds of Volunteer State GOP politics, start with the seven-way primary for the open 2nd District. (It features a Bigfoot hunter, an alleged FBI investigation and a female aviator trying to defeat six men.) The race for the open 6th District is all about Trump (original primary plotline, eh?), with candidates duking it out over who’s the president’s biggest loyalist. The House Freedom Caucus has a dog in this fight, but he hasn’t gained much traction. Speaking of Trump, he came out and endorsed GOP Rep. David Kustoff in the 8th District last week. Why? The freshman, who’s one of only two Jewish Republicans in the House, is being outspent more than 2-to-1 by his primary challenger.

SALT-y Air: The race for New Jersey’s 11th District has become ground zero for the debate over the GOP tax law passed late last year. It didn’t necessarily start out as a partisan issue in this suburban district since GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen bucked leadership and voted against the bill, in large part because it caps the state and local tax, or SALT, deductions his constituents benefit from bigtime. But now the Republican running to replace him is embracing the law, which puts him at odds with high-profile Democratic nominee Mikie Sherrill. Simone went home to Morris County to hear more about how that debate is playing out on the ground. Learn more about the open-seat race, which is tilting in the Democrats’ favor, in this video.

Washington Women: Women have long been leaders in Washington State, so female candidates may be an “Evergreen” story there (that’s an attempt at a pun — Washington’s nickname is the Evergreen State). This cycle Washingtonians might see an unusual scenario where all four GOP-held seats could have a female Democratic challenger. And the state could be a battleground for women in both parties, since two of those targeted Republicans are women (including the only woman in House GOP leadership).

The Count: 22

He’s baaaack. President Barack Obama waded into the midterms backing a slew of candidates, including 22 Democrats in congressional races. That group includes a number of Obama campaign and administration alumni, Eric Garcia reports.

Nathan’s Notes

For years Democrats running in GOP-leaning areas have moderated their positions on guns (or shown they support the right to bear arms by literally bearing arms in campaign ads). But a new poll suggests Democrats could benefit from taking bolder positions on gun control. Nathan breaks down the poll’s findings.

Candidate Confessions

This might be inside baseball (pun intended) but all hope might not be lost for Democrats, whose star pitcher in the Congressional Baseball Game could be hanging up his cleats soon. Enter Iowa Democrat J.D. Scholten. Scholten played a few years of professional baseball after college, where he pitched in the College World Series. He never made it to the major leagues, but he could get a chance to play at Nats Park if he defeats GOP Rep. Steve King (a tall order in the Solid Republican 4th District). Scholten said if he trains again he might be able to get his pitches up to 84 miles per hour. That’s … really fast … especially for the Congressional Baseball Game. And it looks like Scholten is already warming up with a current member of the team who joined him on the campaign trail.

Reader’s Race

Democratic prospects of flipping GOP seats in Pennsylvania increased under a new congressional map, and the most dramatic boost was in the new 5th District (previously known as the 7th District). This seat in the Philadelphia suburbs was held by GOP Rep. Patrick Meehan, who resigned earlier this year after revelations that he used taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. Meehan had announced he wouldn’t run for re-electionbefore the new map was put in place.

Under the new lines, Meehan’s district shifted from a seat Hillary Clinton carried by 2 points in 2016 to one that would have backed her by 28 points under the new lines (h/t Daily Kos Elections). Nathan shifted the race rating from Tilts Democratic to Likely Democratic with the new map.

The Democratic nominee is former Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board member Mary Gay Scanlon, who defeated nine other Democrats in the May primary. She’ll face Republican Pearl Kim, a former senior deputy attorney general, who was the lone Republican on the primary ballot. Kim does have an early financial advantage since Scanlon had to spend to win the primary. Kim ended the second quarter on June 30 with $293,000 in cash on hand, while Scanlon had $167,00.

There’s also a special election to serve out the rest of Meehan’s term. Both Scanlon and Kim are their party’s nominees for that election, which will take place on the same day as the November general election. The twist? This election is for the old district, so voters outside the new 5th District who were part of the old district could be voting for Scanlon or Kim. Definitely won’t be confusing at all …

For next week, reply to this email and let us know which race you want to know more about: Arizona’s 9th District or Connecticut’s 5th District.

We Want to Hear from You! 

Talk to us. It’s easy. Email us and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. As always, send us any race you think we should pay more attention to and we’ll look into it.

Photo Finish

Sometimes members of Congress *really* don’t want to talk to reporters and one such encounter was captured on camera this week. Nevada GOP Sen. Dean Heller was not having it when CNN’s Manu Raju attempted to ask him about President Donald Trump calling for an end to the special counsel’s investigation. (h/t Nevada Democrats for the gif) 


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