Trump and Biden backed candidates face off in Ohio special election

The election to fill the Ohio congressional seat will take place Tuesday, with high profile endorsements for both candidates.
Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 4:18 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Gray DC) - Political newcomer and coal lobbyist Mike Carey won a packed primary in August. He’s favored to win Tuesday’s election in the GOP-leaning 15th congressional district, but he’s facing a strong challenger in Democrat candidate state Rep. Allison Russo, who now has an endorsement from President Joe Biden.

“I have been an independent voice in the Ohio General Assembly, working with both sides of the aisle to get things done.” said state Rep. Russo. “I am not there to play party politics. I’m not there for special interest.”

Russo touts her experience as a public health professional, vowing to prioritize creating affordable health care.

She flipped her statehouse seat in 2018 from Republican to Democrat and aims to do it again Tuesday, but with expected low voter turnout, Russo faces an uphill battle in the GOP-leaning district.

“We’ve spent a lot of time on the ground and all 12 counties in this congressional district. We are really talking to voters and getting the word out that there is an open seat,” said Russo.

Her opponent Mike Carey, like President Trump, is framing himself as a “conservative outsider”, campaigning on tighter border control and reigning in government spending.

President Trump won the district in the 2020 presidential race by 14 percentage points. Carey has run his campaign as an “America First” candidate since the August primary. Former Vice President Mike Pence visited the district last week to campaign for Carey as well.

Though, recently, Carey has shied away from the public eye. His opponents have accused him of being tied to a statehouse bribery scandal surrounding a bill to promote the coal industry, that eventually led to the arrests of former statehouse Speaker Larry Householder and several other political leaders and lobbyists. Carey denies any involvement.

Since winning the primary nomination, Mike Carey has chosen not to debate his opponent and did not make time for an interview with us ahead of the election.

We reached out to the National Republican Congressional Committee to ask about Carey’s campaign and election day expectations. Camille Gallo, the deputy director for media affairs and strategic communications, responded with the following statement:

“Allison Russo supports Nancy Pelosi’s radical agenda that includes open borders, defunding the police, and massive spending sprees that are causing the prices of everyday goods to skyrocket for Ohioans. Ohio voters will reject her.”

We also spoke to Tricia McLaughlin, the communications director for the Ohio Republican Party, about Carey’s absence on the debate stage and in the press.

“Mike Carey is absolutely focused on reaching out directly to voters at their homes,” McLaughlin said. “We’re feeling very confident we’re going to keep Ohio red and keep that working-class conservative message that’s clearly resonating with voters and working for Ohioans.”

Voters in Ohio’s 15th district have been without representation in the House of Representatives since former Congressman Steve Stivers left in May. The winner of the special election tomorrow will immediately take office.

Polls close Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

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