Rulli, Stoltzfus raised funds differently

For two candidates running for Congress for the first time, state Sen. Michael Rulli and state Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus both raised impressive amounts of money in short periods of time.

How each raised their money, though, was very different.

The two were among three Republicans running for the open 6th Congressional District seat.

Because this was a presidential election year, the date for the primary was March 19. That’s seven weeks earlier than nonpresidential years.

Also, candidates running in the 6th District had to scramble to get organized because the seat opening up was a surprise.

The Youngstown State University board of trustees hired Republican Bill Johnson, who served in that congressional seat for 13 years, on Nov. 21. The filing deadline to succeed him was Dec. 20. Johnson resigned Jan. 21 from the U.S. House.

Stoltzfus, R-Paris Township, raised $645,692 — the most money by a candidate seeking the position.

Rulli, R-Salem, wasn’t far behind at $609,701.

Stoltzfus loaned $383,000 of the money raised by his campaign. That’s nearly 60% of the total amount.

Stoltzfus gave $250,000 to his campaign on Dec. 21, the day after the filing deadline.

When I spoke to Stoltzfus on March 1, he said he didn’t plan to give any more money from his personal wealth to his campaign fund, but didn’t rule it out.

On March 18, the day before the primary, Stoltzfus loaned $133,000 to his campaign.

Raising money in a tight timeframe for a congressional bid is challenging. If you’re unable to raise much from donors and have personal wealth, then you can dip into your own pocket if you want to compete.

Stoltzfus lost by about 8.5% to Rulli.

Stoltzfus received $241,192 from individual donors and mustered only $21,500 from political action committees. Most of that PAC money came from his fellow state House Republicans and Stark County officeholders.

Rulli also loaned money to get his campaign going. He gave his campaign $30,400 on Dec. 15. That’s less than 5% of the money raised by his campaign.

Rulli had greater success than Stoltzfus raising money from individual donors, collecting $429,331 from them. He also raised significantly more from PACs — $130,150.

Rulli was able to not only tap into his Ohio connections, which have been helpful in his state Senate campaigns, but also received large amounts of cash from national PACs.

Both Republicans spent a lot of money on the primary.

Rulli had $52,095 left in his fund as of March 31.

With his Democratic opponent, Michael L. Kripchak of Youngstown, running a shoestring campaign, Rulli has a huge financial advantage.

Kripchak raised $5,226 for the campaign with nearly half of it coming from him.

That difference is likely to grow as the special June 11 election for Johnson’s unexpired term quickly approaches.

Kripchak had $3,331 in his campaign fund as of March 31.

While Rulli has much more than that, he also reported $77,413 in debt. That means his campaign owes more money than it has.

It’s atypical, but not that unique.

When J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, was running for the U.S. Senate seat in 2022, his campaign often owed more money than it had.

It still does. Vance reported $395,953 in debt with a $135,366 surplus as of March 31.

Rulli likely won’t pay the debt until after the special election. It’s possible it won’t be paid until after the Nov. 5 general election for a full two-year term that starts January 2025.

But Rulli can rely on getting additional PAC money as he is the heavy favorite to win the June 11 and the Nov. 5 general elections.

The 6th District has an 18% advantage for Republicans based on voting trends in partisan statewide elections over the past decade. The seat is considered safe for Republicans.

Republicans will be eager to secure the seat and add to its slim majority in the U.S. House.

The biggest concern for Rulli is the special election on an unusual day in Ohio, and turnout is expected to be exceptionally poor — less than 10% — he needs to make sure Republican voters are motivated to come out.


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