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GOP State Senator Clinging To Narrow Lead In Franklin County District

State Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) has a 50-vote lead in her state senate race.
Ohio Senate
State Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) has a 50-vote lead in her state senate race.

The U.S. presidential race isn't the only nail-biter this election: Fewer than 50 votes separate Republican state Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and her Democratic challenger, Crystal Lett.

When the mail-in ballots, early votes and Election Day returns were tallied, Kunze held a 41-vote lead in her Hilliard district, along the western stretch of Franklin County. But about 30,000 absentee ballots in the county have yet to turn up.

Lett says those votes could be the difference in such a close race.

“We believe that there’s about 10,000 and some change within Senate District 16," Kunze said. "Now, whether or not those will all come in is a little bit of a different story, but if they postmarked them before Election Day, they will still be able to be counted.”

Voters who cast provisional or incomplete absentee ballots also have until November 10 to clear things up at the Franklin County Board of Elections. Lett says that means her campaign is working on a kind of second get-out-the-vote effort.

“We’ve put in the requests to the BOE for those lists so that we’re able to assist in that way and let people know that there’s a problem with their ballot and that they have the opportunity to fix it,” Lett says. “We’ll try to provide as much detail as we can to them as to how they would go about doing it.”

Kunze’s campaign did not respond to interview requests, but on Twitter she struck an interesting tone—both claiming “victory” and acknowledging the count is ongoing.

“I am so grateful to be blessed with an Election Day victory, and I believe we will hold that lead in the final result,” she wrote Wednesday.

Unless the figures shift substantially with provisional or absentee ballots, the race is well within the 0.25% margin of victory threshold to trigger an automatic recount.

Around the state, the Ohio Republican Party did well in its down ballot races, picking up three Ohio House seats after losing five in 2018.

In the Senate, Republican Sandra O'Brien was able to unseat Democratic state Sen. Sean O'Brien. If the unofficial results in Kunze's race hold, that would give the GOP a more than 3-to-1 advantage in the Ohio Senate, with 25 of the chamber's 33 seats.

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.