While Democrats fared better in the House of Representatives than Republicans hoped for the 2018 mid-term elections, the GOP still made gains in the senate, gubernatorial races, and state legislatures.
Small business owner and Ohio State Senator-elect Michael Rulli pulled a surprise victory in the 33rd Ohio Senate District when he won against a longtime Democrat candidate who was leading in the polls at the start of the race.
The following is an interview with Senator-elect Rulli where we talked about his campaign strategy and identity politics. He also shared his advice for Republicans running in 2020.
Q: What was your campaign strategy running in a district that has been predominantly Democrat and running against a candidate who was largely favored to win?
MR: As far as the politics go, this is an extremely blue area. Youngstown is the biggest city in this district and it has been Democrat for years. Instead of playing identity politics, I spoke to the blue-collar worker, the forgotten worker that have been blamed for everything with no reason. Those are the people I spoke for.
I’m really fortunate because my family has owned a grocery store in this area for over a hundred years, so the community recognizes my name.
I became active in politics on the church committee. They were going to close a church in our area and I was on the team that helped raised money to save it and we succeeded. I also served on the school board. They were going to close school down and I stopped it.
After that, the Columbia County Republicans approached me and asked if I would consider running for the Senate.
During the last election, Democrat Joe Schiavoni ran unopposed. The Ohio state legislature is majority Republican, but this 33rd district was their [Democrats’] stronghold and Schiavoni was the minority leader.
When it was announced that I won, no one could believe it.
Q: 2020 is not that far off and Ohio has often been a swing state. What would you tell Republicans they need to run on if they are going to win the state?
MR: Right now I flipped my county red, but Franklin County, which has long been red is flipping blue. With that in mind, I think that a common sense approach to politics is a good idea. During the campaign, I knocked on over 9,000 doors and used yard signs. I didn’t focus on a single issue to divide the voters with. The Democrats are trying to pigeonhole us into looking like the bad guys, but if we respond with unity we can teach people that it’s good to take care of business.
Q: Your campaign made headlines after a video went viral about your yard signs. Tell us a little about that.
MR: My opponent John Boccieri is an established politician in the area. When we started running, he was ahead in the polls by three points. At first, he was very cordial, but in the summer I ramped up my ground game.
I used yard signs and I hand delivered them. When you do that, you create a bond with the voter. You would see my signs next to [Democrat] Senator Sherrod Brown signs. The opposition went crazy when they saw that.
The Democrat Party chairman pulled this little stunt with me. He used a hidden camera to do a hit on me.
They complained to the election campaign committee that I was handing out yard signs illegally in my store.
Now, I have a bond with my customers. My family has owned the store for a long time. They would ask me where they could get a yard sign.
I spoke with an attorney to learn the rules for having signs in my store. You can’t sell them, force an employee to give them out, coerce a customer into a buying one, or tie one with a promotion. I followed all of these rules.
He sent people undercover to film my employees giving away these yard signs, then he did a press release. I had no idea it was coming and then my phone blows up. For me, I chose not to fill the silence.
Q: What advice do you have for Republicans who face that?
MR: Just what I said. Republicans, do not fill the silence. If I had answered the phone and tried to give a statement, I would have misspoke so poorly. It could’ve destroyed me.
Instead, I sat down with attorney and treasurer and we slowed everything down and made sure no laws were violated.
The opposition wants to destroy you. They don’t want civil discourse. I just chose to not play the game. Three days later, the attack backfired and I got ahead in the polls. Now they call it “Yardgate.”
After that, the Democrats tried three other things, but I just slowed down and would not play that dirty politics game.
The Daily Wire would like to thank Senator-elect Rulli for speaking with us.