COLUMBUS (AP) — After a surge in early in-person and absentee voting, final 2020 ballots are being cast in Ohio, a state initially all but written off by Democrat Joe Biden in his race to unseat Republican President Donald Trump that now appears to be a toss-up.
Enthusiasm among voters is high. More than 1.1 million people took advantage of early and mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, double the number seen four years ago. Poll worker recruitment efforts also hit a record.
Trump easily won Ohio in 2016 with notable support from blue-collar manufacturing and mining communities disenchanted with his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and buoyed by the Republican’s promises that he would bring back jobs to hard-hit communities.
Biden saw the gap as overly daunting early on, but saw an opening in the closing months driven largely by Trump’s softening support among college-educated suburban women. The campaign responded with a summer ad blitz and string of in-person campaign appearances.
HOUSE DISTRICT 1
Democrat Kate Schroder, a public health professional in Cincinnati, is in a tight race with 12-term Rep. Steve Chabot, also of Cincinnati, in a district that includes Republican-friendly Warren County. That county was added to Chabot’s district in the new map for 2012 after he was unseated in 2008 during Democrat Barack Obama’s election to the presidency. Chabot, a longtime conservative, won his seat back in 2010.
Chabot has tried to portray Schroder as too liberal for the district, while she has focused on health care issues.
HOUSE DISTRICT 10
In the Dayton-based 10th District, Democrat Desiree Tims has attracted enough funding and campaign support to be within range of nine-term Rep. Mike Turner, whose career has been highlighted by armed services committee work, including expansion of the district’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Tims, the granddaughter of sharecroppers, grew up on Dayton’s west side and has worked in Washington as an aide in the White House and for two U.S. senators.
HOUSE DISTRICT 12
Rep. Troy Balderson, who narrowly won back-to-back special and general elections in 2018, faces Democratic newcomer Alaina Shearer, a former journalist from Delaware who runs a digital media company.
Shearer has taken on the steady flow of misinformation confronted by voters of the 12th District and sought to link Balderson to Trump, who had endorsed and campaigned for him in the past.
Balderson, a former state lawmaker and small business owner, has struck a centrist tone, focusing on his efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and his bipartisan efforts to boost STEM education and broadband internet access.
HOUSE DISTRICT 14
In the 14th District east of Cleveland, first-time Democratic candidate Hillary O’Connor Mueri’s strong resume has buoyed the party’s hopes of a victory in a district that has trended in their direction in recent years.
Mueri, a lawyer and former naval flight officer from Painesville, has advanced pro-union, pro-abortion rights positions and criticized incumbent GOP Rep. Dave Joyce as representing special interests and corporations over constituents back home.
Joyce, a former Geauga County prosecutor from Chagrin Falls, has won support in the politically divided district for being willing to negotiate with, and at times stand up to, Trump, including on behalf of the health of Lake Erie. He has won his races handily in the past.
Mueri has accused Joyce of a lackluster overall record on the environment.
STATE SUPREME COURT
Democratic challengers are hoping to upend Republicans’ majority on the Ohio Supreme Court in a pair of races on Tuesday.
The contests feature familiar debates over the role justices should play in interpreting state law. A coalition of major business groups has endorsed the two Republican candidates as the best choices for maintaining a predictable business environment. Democrats criticize those same justices for a 2016 ruling that limited non-economic damages in child rape cases.
One race features Democratic challenger Jennifer Brunner and incumbent GOP Justice Judi French. In a second race, incumbent Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy faces Democratic challenger John O’Donnell.
Majority Republicans are defending supermajorities in both chambers of Ohio’s Legislature on Tuesday, amid party divisions over the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and a federal bribery scandal that toppled the former GOP House speaker.
Democrats hope to capitalize on the party’s weakened position with a strong slate of candidates and national momentum driven by voter interest in unseating Republican President Donald Trump.
Democrats need only two additional seats in the Ohio House to wipe out the GOP supermajority, but a whopping 13 to win control of the chamber. In the Senate, they would need to win four additional seats to erase Republicans’ supermajority, and eight to take control.
The race in the rural district of disgraced former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder includes four write-in candidates attempting to unseat the once-powerful politician, who refused to step aside from his reelection bid despite facing charges in a $60 million bribery scheme.
The four challengers — of varied parties and backgrounds — are unified in their attacks on Householder’s questionable ethics and his role in passing a nuclear bailout bill at the center of the scandal that now faces renewed scrutiny at the statehouse. Still, a Householder victory appears likely in District 72, given his strong ties in his native Perry County and an endorsement by the local Republican Party.
He is the only candidate listed on the ballot, having fielded no Democratic challenger. The heavily Republican district also covers Coshocton County and Licking County in east-central Ohio.
Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.