A firestorm of controversy surrounds Justin Pizzulli’s nomination for the Ohio 90th District State Representative. The controversy runs so deep and wide that his proposed appointment was withdrawn from last week’s House of Representatives session because, sources tell SCDN, there were not enough votes within the Ohio House Republican Caucus. This selection comes after the resignation of Brian Baldridge, who was appointed Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture by Governor Mike DeWine.
Pizzulli is a political operative and a realtor. He has also worked as a conductor for Norfolk Southern Railroad. Articles allegedly bought and paid for in large metropolitan areas like Cleveland have greatly overblown this detail. Those articles focused on elevating Pizzulli as the face of an industry under severe scrutiny following the derailment in East Palestine.
Justin Pizzulli could likely be the first appointee in Ohio history to receive opposition from his own party in a vote filling a vacancy. Pizzulli sought the 90th District seat in 2018, coming in third place to Brian Baldridge and Gina Collinsworth.
The appointment of Pizzulli was controversial among statewide and local Republicans. According to documents obtained exclusively by SCDN, Pizzulli has been active in supporting left-wing causes despite his registration as a Republican. The Facebook posts from Pizzulli’s personal page demonstrate that he has supported many agenda items that are typically endorsed by the far left.
Local Republicans also voiced disappointment about the fact that the Ohio House Democrat Leader Allison Russo introduced Pizzulli’s nomination to the Rules and Reference Committee. Documents obtained from the Ohio House website confirm this.
Others locally are concerned about the negative push Pizzulli made to obtain this seat. According to documents obtained exclusively by SCDN, Scioto County Republican Party Chairman Rodney Barnett wrote a letter supporting Pizzulli and disparaging Gina Collinsworth. In his letter, Barnett claimed that Pizzulli hadn’t attacked his opponents in 2018, and asserted that Collinsworth went negative.
In fact, many sources have reported that Pizzulli repeatedly targeted and contacted Collinsworth supporters and requested extended conversations with them.
Moreover, endorsement letters generally don’t take potshots at the other candidates. SCDN has obtained every endorsement letter for all 9 original applicants for the position. Not a single other endorsement letter mentioned the other candidates in any form or fashion.
Previously, Barnett served as chair of Scioto County Board of Children’s Services, which was plagued with problems culminating in the deaths of children that attracted mass media attention.
In addition to his real estate and railroad endeavors, Pizzulli was the Scioto County director for U.S. Senate candidate Mike Gibbons in 2022. Gibbons received the Scioto County Republican Party endorsement ahead of the primary, but received a mere 10% of the vote.
According to our sources, the 6-member committee was mostly stacked with supporters of Speaker Jason Stephens, who came to power after 22 House Republicans voted with the entire Democrat caucus to elect Stephens as speaker. Included in that committee was Ohio Representative Jay Edwards, who made headlines after his “slave” comment on the House Floor.
Of the mountain of information SCDN has on file, we looked at the submissions of each of the 9 applicants. Portsmouth City Councilperson Joey Sandlin’s packet (referred as Applicant #5) contained 13 pages. This packet included Sandlin’s resume, followed by letters of support.
Justin Pizzulli’s packet (referred as Applicant #2) contained 32 pages. Gina Collinsworth’s packet (referred as Applicant #4) contained 71 pages with letters of support. This was the largest show of public support among any of the 9 applicants.
With the vote stalled last week, the House will again attempt to put forward a Candidate for this position. We are told a new committee has been selected. We do not know if these committee members have been approached with sweetheart deals to support Pizzulli. However, we are told that the previous committee will not be involved in the process.
SCDN along with USA Today have reviewed all of the information and have decided to publish the details we’ve been sitting on for some time.
The House was set to meet again on Tuesday, March 8th, at 2pm to try this vote again. However, that has been cancelled. Once there is a firm date, we will provide a live link to that meeting so you can see it unfold live.