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Ohio Democrats trying to turn GOP statewide tide (UPDATED)

  • APTOPIX-Election-2018-Ohio

    A voter waits for assistance from a volunteer at the Tuttle Park Recreation Center, Tuesday in Columbus. Across the country, voters headed to the polls Tuesday in one of the most high-profile midterm elections in years.

    JOHN MINCHILLO / AP

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COLUMBUS — Democrats in Ohio are trying to turn a recent Republican tide in statewide races, relying on a ticket led by a familiar U.S. senator and a competitive governor candidate.

Sherrod Brown, first elected to an Ohio office in 1974, is seeking his third Senate term against fourth-term U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci. Richard Cordray, President Barack Obama's appointee as federal consumer protection chief, is locked in a tight race for governor with Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine. It's a rematch of the 2010 election when DeWine narrowly ousted Cordray to become attorney general.

DeWine's been running in elections nearly as long as Brown, who unseated DeWine in the 2006 Senate race.

Republicans have dominated recent statewide elections, capped by Republican Donald Trump's decisive 8-point victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Some voters in Ohio said Trump was a factor when casting their Election Day ballots.

Kevin Benson, a 38-year-old graphic designer from Westerville in central Ohio, said he's registered a Republican, considers himself an independent, and voted all Democrat on his polling place on Tuesday, mostly because of Trump.

"I'm frustrated with the way he's acting, plus just Republicans in general ... I'm just kind of dissatisfied across the board with them," he said.

Grant Stitzlein, a 30-year-old registered Republican who works for FedEx Freight, said he did what Trump said when voting in the Columbus suburb of Dublin.

"We're trying to make America great again, so I'm out here voting for the Republicans," he said.

Linda Bishop, a 71-year-old textbook editor from Westerville, Ohio, said she voted for candidates from both major parties Tuesday but stuck with Democrats in the gubernatorial and congressional races. Bishop said her disapproval of Trump was a factor in her voting.

"I wanted to be sure that we sent a strong message to him that we are not happy with what he's doing with regard to immigration" Bishop said.

The Ohio Secretary of State's office says more than 1.3 million people voted ahead of Tuesday's election, far outpacing the number of votes cast early statewide four years ago. Officials say that through Monday, nearly 885,000 absentee ballots had been received by mail statewide and that 430,000 people voted early in person. That compares with around 719,000 people mailing in ballots in 2014 and 146,000 people voting early in person, for a total of about 865,000.

Around 8 million Ohioans are registered to vote.

A few problems were reported at polling places in at least two Ohio counties. Sam Rossi, a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State's Office, said there had been no major problems reported in the state.

Lucas County's Board of Elections in Toledo says at least three sites had technical problems involving setup of electronic poll books. Some callers to the board reported being asked to wait instead of receiving backup paper ballots, but all the technical issues were resolved, board Director LaVera Scott said.

Some Hamilton County voters encountered problems in downtown Cincinnati and other sites when voting machines appeared to reject some ballots not completely filled out. Board of Elections Director Sherry Poland said a new change alerts voters if some races are left blank and they have to press a "cast ballot" button indicating they didn't intend to fill out all races. A worker was assigned at all locations to help with any confusion, according to Poland.

Ohioans are deciding another four down-ticket races, two Supreme Court seats, dozens of state legislative races and a statewide drug sentencing ballot issue.

Republicans are trying to maintain the 12-4 U.S. House delegation lead they've held since GOP-dominating redistricting for 2012.

The Democrats' best chances for upsets appear to be in central Ohio's 12th district, where Republican Troy Balderson, a former state senator, barely defeated Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor in an August special election, and in southwest Ohio's 1st District, where Democratic upstart Aftab Pureval ran a well-funded race against Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, who is seeking his 12th term. Chabot got a late campaign boost from Trump's visit to the district Oct. 12.



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