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Biden endorses Allison Russo in special congressional election in Ohio

Democrats have approached the race as an under-the-radar pickup opportunity, or at least a chance to build on their gains in the suburbs.
Image: Allison Russo
Allison Russo, Democratic candidate for in Ohio's 15th Congressional District, speaks to supporters at a campaign event Oct. 23, 2021, in Upper Arlington, Ohio.Jay LaPrete / AP

President Joe Biden has issued a last-minute endorsement in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District, backing Democrat Allison Russo in a Tuesday special election that could reveal hints about their party’s strength in suburban areas.

“The daughter of a union carpenter and a spouse of a combat veteran, Allison Russo knows who built America: working people and the middle class,” Biden said Monday morning in a statement Russo’s campaign shared first with NBC News. “She’s the kind of leader we need as we build back an economy that creates good-paying jobs, delivers more affordable health care, and puts middle-class families first.”

Russo, a state representative, faces Republican coal industry lobbyist Mike Carey in the race to succeed Steve Stivers, a Republican who left the seat this year for a job in the private sector. Carey is running as a devotee of former President Donald Trump, whose endorsement lifted Carey out of a crowded GOP primary last summer.

The overall demographics of the district, which includes the Columbus suburbs and stretches into rural and working-class counties in southern Ohio, favors Carey. Trump won the Ohio 15th by 14 percentage points in 2020. But Stivers — a more-moderate Republican who backed a different candidate in the primary and has expressed an eagerness for the GOP to move past Trump — won by 27 points. Democrats have approached the special election as an under-the-radar pickup opportunity, or at least a chance to build on their gains with college-educated suburban women and independents.

Russo, who wrestled her state legislative district away from Republicans in 2018, has presented herself as a pragmatist who eschews ideological labels.

“President Biden is a leader who understands how important it is that we deliver for Ohio,” Russo said Monday. “I am proud to have his support and I look forward to working with him and both parties to build opportunity for Ohio working families — from creating good-paying jobs to investing in our crumbling infrastructure to making healthcare more affordable.”

Biden’s endorsement comes amid a rush of late national interest in the race. The National Republican Congressional Committee has been airing ads in coordination with Carey, and former Vice President Mike Pence attended a Carey event over the weekend.

In another Ohio special election — in the Cleveland-centric 11th District — Biden last week endorsed Democrat Shontel Brown, who won her primary after emphasizing her loyalty to the president. Brown is widely favored to beat her Republican challenger Tuesday in the race to succeed Marcia Fudge, who left to become Biden’s Housing and Urban Development secretary.