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Eastern Ohio voters are deciding who will fill a congressional seat left vacant for months

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

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

GOP state Sen. Michael Rulli and Democratic political newcomer Michael Kripchak are facing off in Tuesday’s special election for the remainder of Johnson’s unexpired term, which runs through the end of the year. The two candidates will match up again in November’s general election for the two-year term beginning in January.

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

Rulli significantly outraised and outspent Kripchak, in part with help from House conservatives like Reps. Jim Jordan and Bob Latta of Ohio.

The election is taking place under congressional maps that the Ohio Supreme Court previously ruled unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Ohio and others, told the high court last year that it was willing to live with the U.S. House map approved March 2, 2022, and used in 2022 elections, “in lieu of the continued turmoil brought about by cycles of redrawn maps and ensuing litigation.”

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