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Ohio pivotal in presidential race; US House seats at stake

People stand in line to find their polling locations from the election workers at the Hamilton County Board of Elections, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Norwood, Ohio. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

By DAN SEWELL and JULIE CARR SMYTH Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s role as a bellwether for the nation remains in play this year after Democrat Joe Biden mounted a strong challenge to Republican President Donald Trump for the state’s 18 electoral votes.

The former vice president stepped up media spending as early voting began in October, even as Trump’s campaign pulled back on some spending in the state. Trump won a surprisingly decisive 8-percentage-point victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

No one has been elected president without carrying Ohio since 1960, and no Republican has ever been elected without Ohio.

Ohio’s elections chief, Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, said there were just “a few isolated problems” as thousands of polling locations opened Tuesday around the state. He urged Ohioans voting in person to wear masks and follow health precautions.

“In some cases we saw long lines, but please remember that when people stand 6 feet apart, the line looks a lot longer than it actually is, so don’t be discouraged if you find a line when you get to your polling location,” LaRose said in a morning video update.

Elections officials had reported record early turnout during the pandemic, with polls forecasting a toss-up presidential race.

Democrats also saw opportunities to cut into a 12-4 Republican advantage in the U.S. House delegation, which has held steady since GOP-controlled redistricting took hold in 2012. Public health professional Kate Schroder was in a tight race with 12-term Republican Rep. Steve Chabot in the Cincinnati area’s House District 1, with Democratic challengers within range in a handful of other House races with GOP incumbents.

Republicans were considered likely to hold on to their control of the Statehouse. Democrats drew hope from Republican then-House Speaker Larry Householder’s July indictment on federal bribery charges that could at least to cut into their veto-proof supermajorities in the state Senate (24-9) and House (61-38). Republicans ousted Householder from the speakership July 30 but he remained on the ballot.

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Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.