Republican Troy Balderson was finally declared the winner on Friday of the Ohio District 12 congressional seat determined by voting that happened in a special election on Aug. 7.
That was no surprise, as Balderson held a slim margin from the outset that seemed just barely enough to avoid a recount by opponent Danny O’Connor. Balderson ended up winning by only 1,680 votes in the final tally.
But the bigger question now is, will Balderson be able to win the full two-year term when voters go back to the polls to choose between the exact same candidates on Nov. 6.
If not, Balderson, a state senator from Zanesville, could be one of the shortest-lived congressmen in Ohio history.
To avoid that fate, Balderson must figure out a way to get more the district’s solidly conservative voters out to the polls on Nov. 6.
He also must find a way to better define his opponent and how he will be different.
Danny O’Connor, the recorder for Franklin County, has had success portraying himself as a more moderate Democrat in this conservative district. He has rejected the Bernie Sanders wing of his own party, which let’s face it is where most of the energy in this party resides.
O’Connor is young. He won’t turn 32 until Nov. 3. But his is positioning himself as a middle-of-the-road Democrat, not a Democratic Socialist in the mold of fellow millennial Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
The liberal news site Vox even chided O’Connor for not being more like Ocasio-Cortez and coming out in favor of free college tuition for all, free Medicare for all, and the abolishment of ICE and border patrol.
But would O’Connor actually be moderate if elected? As recent history bears out, being a “moderate” member of the U.S. Congress as a Democrat is becoming almost impossible in the era of Trump. We saw evidence of that just last week, when Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, both of whom have touted themselves as pro-life Democrats, voted with their party to defeat a bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood.
So, rather than judge O’Connor on his rhetoric, voters should look at his endorsements for clues about how he would actually vote if elected to Congress.
According to VoteSmart.org, Danny O’Connor has been endorsed by the following special-interest groups:
- MoveOn.org Political Action
- Ohio Civil Service Employees Association Votes
- Planned Parenthood Action Fund
- SEIU District 1199
- Raising Our Future PAC
- NARAL Pro-Choice America
Another clue: O’Connor has a 7 percent rating from the National Rifle Association.
So Troy Balderson has plenty of fodder with which to distinguish himself from the “moderate” Democrat who seeks to make his term in Congress one of the shortest in history.
After being sworn into office when the House reconvenes the first week of September, Balderson will only serve for about nine weeks before he has to face O’Connor again in the Nov. 6 general election.
That means the campaigning will never stop. It will just keep right on going. O’Connor appears up for the challenge.
O’Connor told the Columbus Dispatch he has an ace in the hole in the form of “left-leaning college students,” who were away on summer break during the special election but are now returning to central Ohio.
“We went door to door, we went house to house, we made our case for change, and the grassroots army we’ve created is not done yet,” O’Connor said in a statement. “In fact, we’re just getting started.”
He also believes he will be able to raise the money he needs to compete.
Balderson will have no room, no time, to rest on his laurels. Not if he wishes to keep his seat red.
The district includes all of Morrow, Delaware and Licking counties as well as parts of Richland, Marion, Franklin and Muskingum counties. It was most recently represented by Rep. Pat Tiberi, a Republican who stepped down in January in order to take a job leading the Ohio Business Roundtable.