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Rulli meets in DC with GOP leaders on run for Congress

State Sen. Michael Rulli said his campaign to succeed U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson in Ohio’s 6th Congressional District will be challenging and a lot of work, but he is prepared to “earn everyone’s vote.”

Rulli, R-Salem, said Thursday he is definitely running and is planning an official announcement Monday at Mahoning County Republican Party headquarters in Boardman.

“This is going to be a hard battle to win this,” he said. “I’m going to work my tail off, and I hope it’s in the cards that I win.”

Speaking Friday from Washington, D.C., Rulli said he met with Republican leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Republican National Congressional Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the House.

“They’ve all been very receptive,” Rulli said. “They’ve researched me and saw my bills. The party is very interested in our area. We’re a bellwether of the country. This isn’t a dark red (Republican) area of the state. This is a purple area.”

Rulli, serving his second four-year term in the Ohio Senate, is seen as an early favorite to win the congressional seat. He started serving that second term in January.

Dec. 20 is the deadline to file for the March 19, 2024, primary. No one had filed as of Thursday.

But Rulli last week filed a declaration of candidacy and created a campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission. Those documents permit him to raise money for the race.

Others are expected to file for the safe Republican seat.

State Rep. Ron Ferguson of Wintersville said he is “still weighing his options.”

Former state Rep. Christina Hagan of Marlboro couldn’t be reached Thursday to comment, but she is mulling a run. She unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2018 and 2020.

The 6th Congressional District includes all of Mahoning, Columbiana, Carroll, Jefferson, Belmont, Harrison, Monroe, Noble and Washington counties and portions of Stark and Tuscarawas counties. Mahoning, Columbiana and Stark in the upper part of the district are the population centers. Mahoning is the most-populous county in the 6th.

Rulli said he has spent time meeting people in the lower part of the district including in Belmont, Noble and Washington counties.

Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Tom McCabe and Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman Dave Johnson are backing Rulli, saying he’s the best candidate for the job.

The 6th District had an 18% advantage for Republicans based on voting trends in partisan statewide elections.

Because of that, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman Chris Anderson said the congressional position is not a “priority,” and “the seat is not winnable” for a Democrat.

Johnson, R-Marietta, who is in his seventh term representing the district, plans to resign in February or March to become president of Youngstown State University.

Because a special primary and general election are needed to fill the vacancy, the district could be without a representative for several months.

Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, would schedule the special primary and general election after Johnson’s official resignation.

The timing of Johnson’s resignation means a special primary for the remainder of his unexpired term can’t be held at the same time as the scheduled March 19, 2024, primary for the full two-year term starting in January 2025.

Though DeWine can schedule the special elections at any time, he has planned previous ones for congressional vacancies during the same months as typical elections: May (during nonpresidential years), August and November.

There is the possibility of a special primary in May and a general election in August or an August primary and a November general election, though nothing has been determined.

Under the latter scenario, there would be two general elections for the seat in November: one for the full two-year term and one to fill Johnson’s unexpired term for about six weeks, depending on the certification of the results.

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