Ohio’s congressional districts have often become unfortunately non-competitive. A byproduct of decades of gerrymandering and partisan polarization, many of the members from the House of Representatives in our great state hold office for years and years without few challenges.
In 2018, which surely appears to be a change election brought on by a blue wave, that appears to be changing rapidly. Several of the state’s 16 districts are in play and will be contested elections when Ohioans make their way to the ballot box on Nov. 6.
Plunderbund has taken the time to rank the four districts in this fall’s elections most likely to flip from a Republican incumbent to a Democrat, examining polling and fundraising data when available, as well as Congressional race analysis and ratings from Politico and 538.
There will be less than three months in between the Aug. 7 special election in District 12 and the actual, longer-lasting election that occurs in November. Republican “incumbent” Troy Balderson, who has not actually assumed office as a representative, won by less than a percentage point the first time around.
It should be a similarly neck-and-neck race between Balderson and Democratic challenger Danny O’Connor. Polling has tracked closely in this race with what we saw in the special election — either candidate holds a one-point lead at any given time, pointing to a virtual tie. The difference in this race? O’Connor has massively out-fundraised Balderson and appears to be in a much stronger position financially.
538 only rates O’Connor’s chance to win at 27.2-percent, but that appears to be underselling his odds by quite a bit. It’s a similar story in the Politico Race Ratings, which considers the district to be a Republican lean.
Republican incumbent Steve Chabot is a long-time political insider who has held this seat for 22 of the last 24 years, dating back to 1994. Chabot has spent more time in Washington D.C. than Ohio for more than two decades and Democratic challenger Aftab Pureval is working to punish Chabot for his negligence of his district and his constituents’ needs.
Chabot was briefly ousted from office in 2008, another Democratic wave election that saw Barack Obama sweep into office with a supermajority at his back following the frustrations of the Great Recession. Pureval has put in the work and has a chance to knock Chabot off of his perch in a race that Politico rates as a true toss-up.
David Joyce, a Republican incumbent, has won the last three elections in this Cleveland-area congressional district, but that’s no guarantee of a victory with an apparent blue wave oncoming. Democratic challenger Betsy Rader, a northeast Ohio attorney, has kept pace with Joyce in fundraising to date.
538 is somewhat pessimistic on Rader’s chances to actually make this race competitive, predicting that the Republican will win the vote share 54 to 46. However, polling data is minimal at this point.
Joyce has had major reversals on his positions on healthcare, attempting to radically misrepresent his actual record — when he voted to attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act two dozen times. It’s a critically important issue in this election and Joyce’s dishonesty could come back to burn him.
Another district where the numbers aren’t great but the Republican incumbent has made laughably bad public statement, folks around GOP congressman Joe Gibbs are beginning to get nervous. Democratic nominee Ken Harbaugh has made waves with an enthusiastic campaign, including participating in a hard-charging demolition derby-style event at the Knox County fair that ended in a bloody nose.
Gibbs had a major gaffe in a Cleveland.com editorial meeting, comparing the “danger” he faces as a Congressman to Harbaugh’s long record in the United States military as a Naval pilot. Since then, the Republican has continued to avoid a debate with Harbaugh and won’t face him in public.
The numbers aren’t great — just a 4.5-percent chance from 538 and in a district considered to be likely Republican from Politico — but stranger things have certainly happened.
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