Prizm News / August 6, 2018 / By Bob Vitale

Democrat Danny O’Connor greets people during the Columbus Pride parade on June 16. (O’Connor campaign photo via Facebook)

HRC, out elected officials back Danny O’Connor in the 12th Congressional District; Pence, Trump back Troy Balderson.


By Bob Vitale

Three months before mid-term elections that will be a referendum on President Donald Trump’s first two years in office, a special congressional election in Central Ohio is shaping up as an early clue on what might happen in November.


Voters go to the polls Tuesday in seven Ohio counties to choose a new U.S. representative. The contest in the state’s 12th Congressional District, like most elections these days, features candidates on opposite sides of the big issues such as healthcare, the environment, taxes, immigration, gun violence, women’s rights and others.

Democrat Danny O’Connor and Republican Troy Balderson appear on opposite sides of LGBTQ issues as well.

O’Connor has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign and openly gay officials from two of the district’s cities. Balderson, meanwhile, has a hard time naming any disagreements with a Trump administration that has been notable for its policies against any type of support or equality for LGBTQ Americans. The Republican has been endorsed by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Here’s what you need to know about Tuesday’s election.

Where is the 12th District? 

Ohio’s 12th Congressional District covers a swath of Central and Southeast Ohio. It stretches roughly along I-71 between Columbus and Mansfield, U.S. 23 between Columbus and Marion, and I-70 between Columbus and Zanesville.

Be more specific. 

The 12th District includes all of Delaware, Licking and Morrow counties and parts of Franklin, Marion, Muskingum and Richland counties.

It includes parts of Columbus (Clintonville) and the suburbs of Dubin, Gahanna, Hilliard, New Albany,  Powell, Reynoldsburg, Riverlea, Sunbury, Westerville and Worthington.

Other communities in the district include Buckeye Lake, Delaware, Galena, Galion, Granville, Heath, Hebron, Mansfield, Mount Gilead, Newark, Pataskala, Waldo and Zanesville.

Do I live in the 12th Congressional District? 

Enter your name on this web page maintained by the Ohio secretary of state’s office to see what congressional and state legislative districts you live in.

Even if you know you’re not a resident of the 12th Congressional District, it‘s a good idea to check your voter registration. Secretary of State Jon Husted erases Ohioans from the rolls in a voter-purge policy that The New York Times says is the most aggressive in the nation. His policy was upheld in June by the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you’ve been purged from the voter rolls, contact your county board of elections. They’re all listed here.

OK, I do live in the 12th Congressional District. Where do I vote? 

Here’s another web page maintained by the secretary of state’s office. Enter your name and address to find out where your polling place is located.

For future reference, you don’t have to wait until Election Day to cast a ballot in Ohio. You used to have to give a reason for voting early, but now you can vote by mail or in person at your county board of elections for 30 days prior to an election. Click here for details about early voting in the November election.

Why is there an election in August, and who‘s running? 

U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, a Republican, resigned from Congress in January to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable.

Tiberi was elected to his ninth term in 2016, but his resignation came before that term ends.

The three candidates in Tuesday’s special election are Republican Troy Balderson, the Green Party’s Joe Manchik and Democrat Danny O’Connor.

The winner will serve the final five months of Tiberi’s term. The same three candidates will be on the ballot again for the Nov. 6 general election. The winner will serve a two-year term that begins in January.

Where do they stand on LGBTQ issues? 

O’Connor, who currently serves as the Franklin County recorder, says he supports expanding federal nondiscrimination laws to protect people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. He opposes President Donald Trump’s efforts to kick transgender Americans out of the military. He supports increased funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

He also supports marriage equality, which seemed like an outdated thing to say until U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement and Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who the Human Rights Campaign claims was “hand-picked” by groups opposed to equality for LGBTQ people and women.

Balderson, a state senator from Zanesville, hasn’t spoken out specifically on LGBTQ issues, but his associations and statements offer some clues to where he stands.

He brags about wanting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which includes provisions against anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and he vows to defund Planned Parenthood, which is also a big provider of services to LGBTQ people nationwide.

He recently told The Columbus Dispatch that he couldn’t think of any policy differences he has with Trump, who has pushed policies that would let healthcare professionals turn away LGBTQ patients, rescind protections for transgender school children, and allow business owners to cite religious beliefs as a reason to deny services to LGBTQ that they provide everyone else.

Manchik, from Licking County’s Etna Township, says he supports the Green County platform, which values diversity and pledges to work against homophobia, racism and other forms of hate and discrimination.

Who’s backing whom? 

O’Connor has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, openly gay Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, openly gay Columbus City Auditor Megan Kilgore, openly gay Newark City Council member Jeremy Blake, The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and former Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, former Gov. Ted Strickland, Planned Parenthood,, End Citizens United, the National Education Association, the League of Conservation Voters and other organizations and individuals.

Vice President Mike Pence campaigned for Republican Troy Balderson on July 27 in Columbus. (Balderson campaign photo via Facebook.)

Balderson has been endorsed by Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump, Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Right to Life, the National Rifle Association, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio State Medical Association and others.

Who’s ahead? 

When Tiberi announced his retirement, political pundits rated the 12th Congressional District as a safe Republican seat. Tiberi was in office for 17 years, and now-Gov. John Kasich held the seat for 18 years before that.

But the latest polls show the race a dead heat between Balderson and O’Connor.

Although this special-election contest won’t change control of the U.S. House—again, the same candidates are running again in November—it could give Democrats a lot of momentum heading into the fall, when all 435 congressional seats are on the ballot.

When do I vote? 

Polls are open across the 12th Congressional District from 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.