Ohio special election Tuesday watched for clues to November

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A Democrat is within striking distance of winning a congressional race in Ohio on Tuesday for an open seat that has been reliably Republican for more than three decades. Both national parties are focusing on the contest for clues about whether Democrats will retake the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have campaigned in support of the Republican candidate in recent weeks. Polls taken by Emerson College and Monmouth University before Saturday’s Trump event in suburban Columbus showed the race neck-and-neck.

Troy Balderson, a two-term Republican state senator, is working to retain GOP control of the 12th District. He faces Democrat Danny O’Connor, the Franklin County recorder, who has reported raising more money than Balderson has.

The seat was held for 18 years by GOP Gov. John Kasich and nearly another 18 by U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, a Republican who retired in January and is backing Balderson in Tuesday’s special election.

Balderson, 57, is a Trump supporter but is also aligning himself with Kasich, an outspoken Trump critic.

O’Connor, 31, also has taken care not to criticize Kasich. The Republican governor’s statewide popularity remains high, in part, because of an increase in support among Democrats as he’s maintained a steady barrage of negative commentary about the president.

The candidates made their final push Monday at stops around the central Ohio district, which sprawls from the urban, heavily Democratic Franklin County, home to Columbus, into Trump-supporting suburban and rural areas stretching east to Zanesville and the Appalachian foothills.

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