Poll shows tight race to replace Tiberi in Ohio

Poll shows tight race to replace Tiberi in Ohio
© Camille Fine

A new poll shows the candidates for Ohio's 12th Congressional District are running neck and neck, a signal that the August showdown for the red-leaning seat could become the next big special election battleground.

New polling conducted by Public Policy Polling for End Citizens United (ECU), a political action committee that backs candidates who push for campaign finance limits, shows Republican state Rep. Troy Balderson ahead of Democrat Danny O'Connor, the Franklin County recorder, by just 2 percentage points, within the survey's margin of error.

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Balderson leads with 45 percent of the vote in the new poll, which was provided exclusively to The Hill, while O'Connor followed with 43 percent.

With a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points, O'Connor is well within striking distance in a district that President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE won by 11 points in 2016 and one that former Rep. Pat TiberiPatrick (Pat) Joseph TiberiOhio New Members 2019 Many authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress GOP Rep. Balderson holds onto seat in Ohio MORE (R) held with little problems for almost nine terms.

“In a district where Donald Trump won by a large margin, voters are looking for a candidate who will bring change and unrig the system,” Tiffany Muller, ECU's president, said in a statement.

“As voters' frustration with a broken and unresponsive Washington continues to grow, Danny O’Connor’s support for reform helps put him in a position to upset the conventional wisdom in this race.”

ECU has endorsed O'Connor.

The 12th District, which includes the Columbus suburbs and more rural areas in the Zanesville area, is the wealthiest and best-educated district in Ohio. Democrats have already shown an ability to outperform in wealthy and educated areas in previous special elections, a reality that has sparked optimism on the left and concern on the right specifically centered on this district.

While the winner of the Aug. 7 election will only serve out the remainder of Tiberi's term, through the end of the year, an upset here would give Democrats a symbolic jolt ahead of November's midterm elections, where the party is looking to flip the House majority.

Balderson won a crowded primary last Tuesday, emerging victorious over what became a two-candidate battle with Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan. Leneghan had backing from more conservative Republicans like House Freedom Caucus leaders Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWill Republicans continue to engage in willful blindness? How Democrats can avoid fatal flaws of their impeachment inquiry Live coverage: Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption MORE (Ohio) and Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsMichelle Obama presents Lin-Manuel Miranda with National Portrait Award Sondland testimony looms over impeachment hearings this week Democrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing MORE (N.C.), while Balderson won the backing of more moderate Republicans like Tiberi and the Republican Main Street Partnership.

Some Republicans worried that a Leneghan victory would hurt the party's chances of holding the seat and were relieved that Balderson advanced. But given the tough electoral environment for Republicans in 2018, the seat is no sure thing for Balderson either.

O'Connor easily won his own primary, splitting the middle between a moderate former sheriff and a liberal activist.

Trump will likely be a big factor in the election, as he has been in other special elections. The ECU poll shows Trump with a 49 percent favorable rating and a 47 percent unfavorable rating.

It also finds that voters would be more likely to support a candidate who wants to pass campaign finance reform in step with ECU's mission.

The poll surveyed 625 likely voters between May 10 and May 11, just a few days after the special election primaries.

No matter what happens in August, the two candidates will face off again in November for the right to a full two-year term in the same seat. Both candidates won their party's primaries for that race earlier this month as well.

Read ECU poll results by kballuck1 on Scribd