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Eastern Ohio voters will decide who will fill a congressional seat that has been vacant for months

Columbus, OH — Voters in Ohio’s sprawling 6th District along the Ohio River will decide Tuesday who will fill a U.S. House seat that has been vacant since January.

That’s when longtime Republican Rep. Bill Johnson left to become president of Youngstown State University.

Republican Sen. Michael Rulli and Democratic political newcomer Michael Kripchak face off Tuesday in the special election for the remainder of Johnson’s unexpired term, which runs through the end of the year. The two candidates will face off again in the November general election for a two-year term starting in January.

Rulli, 55, is a second-term state senator from Salem in Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, where he oversees operations of his family’s 100-year-old grocery chain. Kripchak, 42, of Youngstown, is a local restaurant worker and former U.S. Air Force research scientist and acquisitions officer, actor and startup operator.

Rulli has significantly raised and spent Kripchak, partly with help from conservatives in the House of Representatives such as Reps. Jim Jordan and Bob Latta of Ohio.

The elections will take place based on congressional maps that the Ohio Supreme Court previously ruled unconstitutional in favor of Republicans. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio told the Supreme Court last year on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Ohio and others that it was willing to live with the U.S. House map approved on March 2, 2022, and used in the 2022 election. “rather than the ongoing unrest caused by cycles of map redraws and resulting lawsuits.”

Democrats scored victories in 2022, securing five of the 15 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in Ohio, up from the four of the 16 they had previously held. Ohio lost one seat in the 2020 census due to lagging population growth.

The 6th District, which runs through all or part of 11 counties ranging from urban to rural, is nearly 59% Republican, according to Dave’s Redistricting App, a political map-making website. The population center is Youngstown, in Mahoning County, where the once reliably Democratic working-class base has been moving in the right direction in recent years. When former President Donald Trump won the county in 2020, he was the first Republican to do so since the 1970s.

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