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Election for Congress is today; dismal turnout projected

Voters – though not many of them – will cast ballots today to determine who will be the next U.S. House member to represent the 6th Congressional District.

Polling locations for the special election throughout the 11-county district are open today 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The candidates are state Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, and Democrat Michael L. Kripchak of Youngstown. The two are running to fill the unexpired term of Republican Bill Johnson, who resigned Jan. 21 after 13 years in Congress to become Youngstown State University president.

The Mahoning County Board of Elections will certify the election results June 27. Mahoning is by far the district’s most-populous county.

Rulli and Kripchak will face each other again Nov. 5 for a full two-year House term that starts in January 2025.

Turnout in Mahoning is expected to be 7% to 8%, said Tom McCabe, the county’s elections director, as well as its Republican Party chairman.

“It’s an atypical time with one race to vote on,” McCabe said. “There hasn’t been a lot of advertising for the seat.”

The county received 4,072 total early votes.

“That is low,” McCabe said. “We expected it to be low. You can’t compare it to any other election.”

Kim Fusco, director of the Columbiana County Board of Elections, expects turnout in that county to be between 12% and 15% though she admitted, “If we get that high, I’ll be shocked.”

In Columbiana, 1,330 people voted early. Columbiana is the district’s third most-populous county behind Mahoning and Stark.

The special election will cost more than $1 million to hold.

Kripchak is running on a platform of creating high-paying, high-skilled jobs in the district; rejuvenating the nation’s public education system; and fixing the failures of the federal farm bill.

Rulli’s campaign priorities are fostering robust job growth, addressing inflation and ensuring economic stability, and immigration reform.

During the pre-special election filing period, between April 1 and May 22, Rulli raised $68,924 to $17,036 for Kripchak.

The Federal Election Commission requires the candidates to file notices of any contributions received of at least $1,000 after the May 22 deadline. Rulli reported an additional $6,000 in political action committee contributions as of Monday.

The district has an 18% advantage to Republicans based on voting results in partisan statewide elections over the past decade and is considered safe for the GOP.

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.

RULLI REPLACEMENTS

Rulli has represented the 33rd Ohio Senate District for more than five years.

The district includes all of Mahoning, Columbiana and Carroll counties.

The Ohio Senate Republican Caucus plans to appoint Rulli’s successor Thursday should he win the congressional election. That person would serve through the end of the year.

Earlier that day, the Republican Party chairs and secretaries in the three districts will meet to appoint a candidate to run on the Nov. 5 ballot for the final two years of Rulli’s term – from the start of 2025 to the end of 2026.

The Senate caucus will appoint whoever the six officials from the 33rd District vote to put on the ballot, McCabe said.

The candidates interested in the seat, McCabe said, are state Rep. Al Cutrona of Canfield; state Rep. Monica Robb Blasdel of Columbiana; Tim Ginter of East Liverpool, a former House speaker pro tempore who is running in November for Columbiana County commissioner; Columbiana County Commissioner Michael Halleck; and Austintown trustee Robert Santos.

The two favorites are Cutrona, who McCabe backs, and Robb Blasdel, who Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman Dave Johnson supports.

“It will come down to Carroll County,” McCabe said. “I’m backing Al, but I have a lot of respect for Monica and all of the candidates.”

If either Cutrona or Robb Blasdel is appointed to the state Senate, Republicans will have to go through a similar process to appoint a candidate for the Nov. 5 election and to fill out the unexpired term of either state House member.

The Democratic chairs in the three counties will be meeting virtually Friday or Monday to discuss the state Senate candidate appointment process, said Mahoning County Democratic Chairman Chris Anderson.

The tentative plan is for anyone interested in the position to submit a letter of interest by

July 1 to chair@mahoningcountydemocraticparty.com.

The chairs from the three counties will hold a virtual town hall meeting July 10 with the central and executive committees to hear from the interested candidates and then have a July 16 town hall open to anyone, Anderson said. Information on how to register for that event and the location will be announced at a later date, he said.

The candidates will be selected by July 19 and forwarded to the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus, Anderson said.

With Mahoning being the district’s most-populous county, the candidate will come from there, he said.

“We’re hopeful the voters will see a stark contrast between Republicans who are deciding through backroom dealing and special interests and Democrats who represent the people,” Anderson said.

A number of people have expressed interest in the nomination, but Anderson declined to say who they were because “I don’t make people’s announcements for them.”

The Senate district favors Republicans by about 9.5% based on partisan statewide voting results during the past decade.

Have an interesting story? Contact David Skolnick by email at dskolnick@vindy.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @dskolnick.

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