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Ohio U.S. Senator J.D. Vance Picked To Be Trump's Running Mate

June special election set for Ohio’s 6th Congressional District. Rematch follows in November

A map of Ohio Congressional District 6 in 2024
Lauren Green
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Ideastream Public Media
The seat in Ohio's 6th Congressional District is the only open seat in this year's election, following Bill Johnson's departure in January to become president of Youngstown State University.

A special election to fill the open seat in Ohio’s 6th Congressional District is scheduled for June 11. The seat has been vacant since January when former representative Bill Johnson resigned to become the president of Youngstown State University.

Democrat Michael Kripchak and Republican Michael Rulli won their parties’ nominations in the March primary when voters chose who they wanted to represent them in both the special and general elections. Rulli defeated Reggie Stoltzfus and Rick Tsai in a competitive Republican race. Kripchak beat Rylan Finzer by winning more than 65% of the vote in both Democratic primary contests.

Rulli and Kripchak will face off twice this year: once in the special election in June and again in the November general election.

The candidates

Michael Kripchak

Michael Kripchak
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Courtesy of Michael Kripchak

Youngstown native Michael Kripchak is a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate. He worked as a research science and acquisitions officer at the Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment. After, he attended graduate school at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Kripchak moved back to Youngstown. He currently works at a local restaurant and consults on government contracts, he said.

If elected, Kripchak said he will prioritize local issues: bringing more high-paying jobs to the area, building up manufacturing and focusing on farmers.

“A lot of my policies are focused on enabling localities to do what they need to do and enabling through the federal government,” he said. “I'm more economically conscious. I believe more in the power of local communities to make the decisions they need to make.”

When representatives start to care more about winning over voters than helping individuals, the focus on district issues is lost, Kripchak said. A large component of his campaign is being present when communities need help, especially during disasters like the train derailment in East Palestine, he added.

“It's this abandonment that our district has felt. You could blame it on Republican representation, or you could blame it on whatever you want, but this is why the people feel abandoned,” Kripchak said. “This is why people keep focusing on different solutions.”

As the Democratic nominee, Kripchak will have to win over supporters of presidential candidate Donald Trump to be elected in November, he said.

“I understand that I'm going to have crossover voters voting for Donald Trump and voting for me, and I'm fine with that,” Kripchak said. “I am focused on running my campaign and helping people understand that the Democrats are the better choice.”

He plans to do this through his actions leading up to the election, he added.

“It's not about what you say. It's about what you do,” Kripchak said. “I'm the one actually doing the job. I'm not even elected yet and I'm the one doing the job.”

Michael Rulli

Michael Rulli
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Ohio Senate

Ohio Sen. Michael Rulli currently lives in Salem, but his family has lived and owned a business in the Mahoning Valley for generations. Rulli is in his second term representing the 33rd Senate District which covers Mahoning and Columbiana counties.

“I'm pro-life. I am pro-gun. I'm also a Donald Trump delegate, so I align a lot with the conservative movement,” he said. “I’m not shy about my conservative values. I'm proud of the things I believe in, but more important is that I work for everyone.”

Rulli said his top priority is curbing inflation because he has seen how it affects people firsthand at his family’s retail store.

“I know a lot of the people are really hurting,” Rulli said. “I see people at the checkout registers that don't have enough money to pay for their order.”

Other items on his to do list include securing the border and investing in new energy projects.

Although Rulli has name recognition in the northern part of the 6th District, he said meeting all constituents is important to him.

“Experiencing the southern part of the Ohio 6 is my main goal because it's a very diverse district, and it's a district that goes for three and a half to four hours from the top of it to the bottom of it,” Rulli said. “One really has to open up their perspectives and understand how we can help a district that diverse.”

Rulli points to his experience in past government positions as to why he is the best candidate for the people of the 6th District.

“I waited until being in my late 30s to run for office after I had some experience under my belt. I'm very proud of my work in their Ohio Senate and on the Leetonia School Board, and that work is available for the public to review,” he said. “I like hard work. It's what I’m about. I think the possibilities and the creativity of what can help the Ohio 6, I think I have.”

About the 6th

The 6th Congressional District covers the state’s Appalachian region from Youngstown to Marietta. The entirety of Carroll, Columbiana and Mahoning counties are in the district, as well as parts of Stark and Tuscarawas. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey, the population of the district is more than 700,000, about 90% identify as white. About 8% identify as Black and 3% identify as Hispanic or Latino.

The 6th District includes part of southeast Ohio which contains most of the state’s oil and gas wells, making it an important mining region. More than 6,500 residents work in the agriculture and natural resource industry, 55% of whom work in mining, quarrying or gas and oil extraction.

The political landscape

Looking back on the 2020 presidential election can help predict what may happen in the 6th District this year, said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Although the district lines have been redrawn since then, the nonpartisan analysis group still rates the 6th District as safely Republican.

“It's not, it's not quite as Republican as the old iteration of the seat, but Trump won it by 29 points,” Kondik said. “That's not a district that’s going to elect a Democrat these days.”

Kondik said he does not foresee the special election for the open seat giving an advantage to Kripchak.

“Democrats have been generally doing relatively well in special elections, but I just think this seat is much too Republican to elect a Democrat,” he said.

The 6th District mirrors the voting patterns typical of districts in the Appalachia region, Kondik added.

“That’s just the part of the country that has really trended very strongly Republican over the last couple of decades,” he said. “It's exemplified to say West Virginia, which borders Ohio 6 in some places, as recently as the 80s was one of the most Democratic states in the whole country. And by 2000, it was voting for George W. Bush.”

Important dates

The 2024 special election in the 6th Congressional District is June 11. Here are key dates to keep in mind:

  • May 13: Deadline to register to vote, 9 p.m.
  • May 14: Early in-person voting begins. Check with your county board of elections for hours and location.
  • June 4: Deadline to return completed vote by mail applications, 8:30 p.m.
  • June 10: Ballots sent by mail must be postmarked by this date. Otherwise, ballots must be turned in to your county board of elections by 7:30 p.m. on election day.
  • June 11: Election Day. Polls are open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

Here are key dates to keep in mind for the 2024 general election:

  • Sept. 20: Military and overseas absentee voting begins
  • Oct. 7: The deadline to register to vote
  • Oct. 8: Absentee voting by mail begins
  • Oct. 8: Early in-person voting begins. Dates and hours are available here.
  • Nov. 4: Ballots sent by mail must be postmarked by this date. Otherwise, ballots must be turned in to your county board of elections by 7:30 p.m. on election day.
  • Nov. 5: Election Day. Polls are open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.
Updated: May 9, 2024 at 11:43 PM EDT
This story has been updated to include key date for the June special election.
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Jenna Bal was a news intern at Ideastream Public Media from January 2023 to May 2024.