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Ohio voters tap Rulli for House vacancy, boosting GOP’s majority

Michael Rulli will serve remainder of ex-Rep. Bill Johnson’s term

Michael Rulli, a Republican, will also be on the ballot in November for a full term starting in January.
Michael Rulli, a Republican, will also be on the ballot in November for a full term starting in January. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ohio voters chose a grocer and state senator who once played in a grunge band to fill the vacant 6th District seat on Tuesday, boosting Republicans’ narrow House majority.

Republican Michael Rulli had 52 percent to Democrat Michael Kripchak’s 48 percent when The Associated Press called the special election at 9:02 p.m. Eastern time. Independent Christopher Lafont was also a write-in candidate on the ballot whose tally was not reported Tuesday night by the AP.

Rulli will serve the remainder of former Republican Rep. Bill Johnson’s term, which runs through January. When he is sworn in, Republicans will hold 219 seats to Democrats’ 213. Rulli and Kripchak are also on the November ballot, vying for a full term starting next year. Johnson resigned in January to become president of Youngstown State University.

Rulli comes to Congress from the Ohio Senate, where he was elected to two terms starting in 2018. His state Senate seat encompasses many of the same eastern Ohio communities as the 6th Congressional District, and he beat state Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus by less than 9 percentage points in a March special primary. 

Rulli grew up in Poland, Ohio. His grandfather and great-uncle in 1917 established the Rulli Bros. grocery store, which the family still operates at two locations in the Youngstown area.

Rulli left his hometown to attend Emerson College in Boston and played bass in a Boston-area grunge band called Red Bliss. Afterward, Rulli returned to Ohio and worked in the family business. He’s been in politics since winning a seat to the Leetonia School Board in 2009.

In Congress, Rulli says his focus will be on growing the local economy, including manufacturing and energy industries in eastern Ohio. He plans to take up his predecessor Johnson’s legacy as a champion of oil and natural gas.

“I definitely don’t want to drop the ball on that,” Rulli said.

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