- A special election in Ohio between an establishment candidate and an outsider is the latest example of the Republican Party’s civil war in primaries around the country.
- The race features Ohio state senator Troy Balderson, backed by the establishment wing of the party, against outsider and self-declared Trump Republican Melanie Leneghan.
A special election in Ohio between an establishment candidate and an outsider is the latest example of the Republican Party’s war with itself in primaries around the country, according to Politico.
The race features Ohio state senator Troy Balderson, backed by the establishment wing of the GOP, against outsider and self-declared Trump Republican Melanie Leneghan.
The race is another proxy war in the overall battle between the two wings of the Republican Party. The outsider Leneghan has received the endorsement of Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who is a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Meanwhile, Balderson is being backed by former Rep. Pat Tiberi and the House Conference leadership.
Tiberi, who resigned from his seat in January after representing the 12th District of Ohio since 2001, is spending thousands of dollars to make sure Balderson wins the primary against Leneghan. Meanwhile, the Club for Growth is putting out TV ads attacking Balderson to help Leneghan’s cause.
But the stakes of this primary have risen since the GOP has lost a Senate race in Alabama and a House seat in Pennsylvania to Democrats in areas that voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 election. The divided GOP is now concerned that a third congressional seat could flip from red to blue this year in Ohio.
Republican Party leaders could become even more worried if the more conservative Leneghan defeats Balderson in the primary next week to represent the GOP in the special election this August. Balderson’s supporters are arguing that a Leneghan victory in the Republican primary would result in a Democratic victory in the special election later this summer.
Ohio’s 12th District, which Trump won with 53% of the vote in 2016, has been represented in the House by a Republican since 1983 when Ohio governor and former presidential candidate John Kasich was elected. Tiberi succeeded Kasich in 2001.
“[Leneghan] is out-of-step with mainstream Republicans that dominate that district, and we’ve got a bunch of candidates dividing up that majority, so we could pick someone who doesn’t represent the district with her pretty extreme viewpoints,” former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges told Politico. “We’re looking at a situation where every seat counts to hang on the majority. We don’t need any self-inflicted wounds.”
Jordan argued an opposite point.
“You’ve got to turn out the grassroots, if you’re going to win a special,” Jordan said to Politico. “So she’s the best one equipped to do that. She’s the best equipped to win the general.”
The primary, which will be held next Tuesday, features 10 candidates on the Republican side. But Balderson and Leneghan are considered the frontrunners to represent the GOP in the special election.
According to the Cook Political Report, the 12th District is a toss-up, which it defines as a highly competitive race that both parties have a shot at winning.
However, RealClearPolitics gives the Republicans a better forecast for their chances to retain the seat and lists it as likely to remain red.
The winner of August’s special election will serve out Tiberi’s term, but the general election for the seat will follow quickly in November.
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