Ohio voters have picked the major party nominees for the latest in a string of House special elections with implications for control of the chamber after November's midterms.
Democratic Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor is projected to win Tuesday's primary for Ohio's 12th District special election, according to NBC News. While NBC has not called the GOP primary for the seat, state Sen. Troy Balderson leads with nearly all votes counted.
The candidates are expected to emerge from crowded primary fields to compete in an Aug. 7 special election to serve until January. O'Connor and Balderson are also expected to represent their parties in the November general election. The seat, vacated by GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi's resignation, will serve as another litmus test for Democrats as they try to win suburban areas that have recently tilted red.
The minority party hopes to win the 23 Republican-held seats in November needed to take a majority in the chamber. The 12th District sits in suburban Columbus and nearby rural areas, and is wealthier and better educated than the median congressional district. Winning districts like it could prove crucial to Democrats' ability to flip the House.
Democrats hope recent strong performances in red pockets of Pennsylvania and Arizona bode well for the party's ability to compete in some districts President Donald Trump carried in 2016. The Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index, which gauges how areas vote relative to the rest of the country, rates the 12th District as an "R+7" region.
Cook, a nonpartisan elections site, lists the race as a "toss up" following Tuesday's primaries. Another nonpartisan handicapper, Sabato's Crystal Ball, classifies it as a race that "leans Republican."
O'Connor has taken a platform similar to those employed by other Democrats who have tried to win in red-leaning areas. He has pledged to protect Social Security and Medicare and to expand health-care coverage.
O'Connor has also called for more bipartisan cooperation and "changes in leadership" on both sides of the aisle, according to Politico. He echoes other candidates who have either declined to support or outright opposed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
He has received endorsements from former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who previously challenged Pelosi to lead House Democrats.
To prevail, O'Connor will likely need to win over highly educated independents and Republicans in Columbus' outskirts who disapprove of Trump.
Should Balderson hold on in the primary, the GOP's establishment lane gets its preferred candidate. Tiberi backed Balderson and even supported him with his own campaign funds.
He is trying to hold off Melanie Leneghan, who ran to the right of Balderson and received the endorsement of hard-line conservative Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
Balderson has run on a platform that largely emulates Trump. He says he wants to replace the Affordable Care Act and backs Trump's tax plan and proposed border wall. On his website, Balderson says he "will work with the president to drain the swamp and fight unfair trade practices hurting Ohio businesses and families."
It remains to be seen whether one candidate can establish a fundraising advantage in the special election. O'Connor and Balderson had roughly the same amount of cash on hand, hovering around $100,000, as of mid-April.