By Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican congressional candidate Troy Balderson on Friday was declared the winner of a hotly contested Ohio special election that served as a final test of his party’s ability to hold off an anticipated surge of Democratic voters in the November elections.
After two weeks of counting additional ballots in a district that has historically provided easy victories to Republicans, Balderson was declared by Franklin County officials as the winner over Democrat Danny O’Connor, who said on Friday he called to concede to Balderson.
In the final vote count Balderson received 104,328 votes, or 50.12 percent, and O’Connor had 102,648 votes, or 49.32 percent, according to Franklin County.
“I’m humbled by the support I’ve received from voters and look forward to representing Ohio’s 12th Congressional district in Congress,” Balderson said in a statement. “Danny O’Connor ran a hard-fought race but I look forward to earning the support of voters for a fourth time.”
The special election was viewed as a referendum on Republican President Donald Trump’s leadership and a last chance to gauge Democratic strength ahead of November’s midterm elections, in which the Republicans are trying to retain majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.
Despite the loss, Democrats are hoping to parlay continued enthusiasm among their base into victories in November. Republicans are using the narrow victory as a warning that many congressional seats could be lost unless candidates invest heavily in their campaigns both through fundraising and campaigning.
The special election was called to replace former Representative Pat Tiberi, who resigned from his seat earlier this year to take a job with a business group. Because the August election was only to fill the remainder of Tiberi’s term, which ends in January, another election, again with Balderson and O’Connor, will be held in November to elect a representative for the new term.
“We went door to door, we went house to house, we made our case for change, and the grassroots army we’ve created is not done yet,” O’Connor said in a statement. “In fact, we’re just getting started.”
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Bill Trott)
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