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Rep. Troy Balderson Wins Re-Election To Ohio's 12th Congressional District

Republican Rep. Troy Balderson won re-election to Ohio's 12th congressional district.
Tony Dejak
Associated Press
Republican Rep. Troy Balderson won re-election to Ohio's 12th congressional district.

Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) has won re-election to Ohio's 12th Congressional District, holding off a challenge from Democrat Alaina Shearer.

WOSU is bringing you comprehensive coverage of the 2020 election, in Ohio and around the country. Find the rest of our coverage below:

The 12th District was one ofthree Republican seatsthat Democrats were aiming at in Ohio. It stretches from Zanesville to Columbus and then jogs north to Mansfield.

Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) has represented the district since winning the vacated seat in an August 2018 special election, then winning again during the general election just a few months later. Shearer and Libertarian candidate John Stewart both sought to unseat Balderson.

The district garnered attention from Democratic challengers because the shifting political loyalties of suburban voters in Delaware, Licking and Franklin County. Those kinds of voters were decisive in many 2018 wins for Democrats around the country, but not in Ohio’s 12th District.

On Tuesday night, Balderson dominated in the more rural parts of the district, and although he lost in Franklin County, he won convincingly in Delaware and Licking County—territory where Democrats were hoping to pick up votes.

Ohio’s record breaking early vote numbers initially gave Shearer reasons to be optimistic.

“It’s hard to tell, you know, because this is a pandemic, this is obviously a really unusual situation, but I think people are just so incredibly motivated," Shearer said after an event in Delaware last month.

Shearer, like most Democratic hopefuls, made a play for those same suburban voters, but her campaign stressed that they also worked hard to make a pitch to rural communities as well. Meanwhile, Balderson has tied himself closely to President Trump, backing the president’s economic agenda and taking a similar hawkish stance toward China.

Political pundits had tagged the district as likely Republican, and Balderson was able wring 50,000 more votes out of the district than he did two years ago. He chalks that up to a straight forward campaign pitch.

“You know we got results, we focused on those results and we didn’t have rhetoric, and I’m proud of this campaign,” Balderson said after the race was called.

COVID-19, of course, loomed large over every aspect of both nominee’s campaigns. Instead of knocking on doors and talking to potential voters, the campaigns have focused on literature drops. Balderson said he’s missing the opportunity to talk to voters at parades or county fairs, while Shearer got creative and retrofitted a bus to play music, turning campaign trips into something like a visit from the ice cream truck.

In addition to altering how the nominees campaign, the virus has become a major policy issue. Shearer expected the lack of a coordinated response from Washington D.C. to drive voters to her side. Meanwhile, Balderson insists Trump is best positioned to respond to the coronavirus and lead the country’s economic recovery.

Balderson says a new coronavirus relief package is a top priority when he gets back to Washington, but he argues his branch’s role is to help facilitate state and local response.

“So as far as the federal government," Balderson said, "what they do for COVID, to me, is making sure that we get the needs and the supplies back to the state, back to the 12th congressional district, so we can deal with it.”

In a video posted to Facebook on Tuesday night, Shearer insisted a race run with a gerrymandered map is fundamentally unfair, and urged her supporters to be active as Ohio drafts new districts following the census.

“Take that energy and pour it into preventing gerrymandering from plaguing future generations of Ohioans," Shearer said. "Because we deserve to be able to vote for our representatives. They shouldn’t choose us, they shouldn’t choose their voters, and that’s why we have to fight to change it.”

When lawmakers draw new lines they will face new legal constraints meant to prevent the egregious map rigging, but even backers acknowledge there will still be opportunities for abuse. One silver lining for Democrats is new state Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Brunner, who they hope can help serve as a check as lawmakers draw those maps.


Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.