Republicans Narrowly Avoid Defeat in Ohio Special Election

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Ohio state Senator Michael Rulli defeated Democrat Michael Kripchak in last Tuesday’s special congressional election in Ohio’s 6th Congressional District in a closer-than-expected race that shocked Republicans and Democrats alike.

While the 55-year-old Republican state senator topped the political newcomer by 9.3 points, the margin was far below Donald Trump’s 30-point win four years ago in the state’s blue-collar eastern district, leading some Democrats to hope they can flip the seat blue in November.

Rulli’s anemic victory was also far below the margins of victory enjoyed by his predecessor former Republican Rep. Bill Johnson, who announced last year that he was resigning from the House to become the president of Youngstown State University. Johnson won reelection in 2022 with 67 percent of the vote.

While Kripchak lost the race, he won Mahoning County, which has voted Republican since 2020.

Mahoning County GOP Chair Tom McCabe suggested that the lower margin of victory was likely due to the low voter turnout common in special elections. McCabe said that voter turnout last Tuesday was as low as 8.5 percent in several of the rural counties in that went to Trump by wide margins in 2020. 

McCabe, who serves as Mahoning County’s elections director, also said voters in OH-06 may have been turned off by how nasty the primary was.

However, McCabe suggested that low voter turnout was unlikely to be repeated in November when Rulli once again faces off against Kripchak to run for a full term in the House since voter turnout is always much higher in presidential elections. 

Following last Tuesday’s special election, Kripchak said he wasn’t surprised that the race was closer than expected and suggested that the Democrats could flip the district in November with effort and spending.

He said that his experience on the campaign trail led him to believe that OH-06 wasn’t a “Trumpian district.” Instead, it was a district that “felt abandoned by the Democratic Party.”