NEW KNOXVILLE — One day after formally announcing his bid for a seat in the Ohio Senate, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan found himself on a farm in rural Auglaize County. He said it won’t be the last farm he visits in an attempt to put himself in touch with the grassroots workers of the state who he claimed are hurting.
Ryan, a suburban Warren Democrat who has represented the 13th Ohio Congressional District since 2003 and who mounted a short-lived presidential bid in 2019, announced Monday he would seek the Ohio Senate seat being vacated at the end of 2022 by Republican Rob Portman, who is retiring.
Visiting the farm of Auglaize County Democratic Party Chairman Brent Henschen, Ryan on Tuesday afternoon kicked off what he called his Workers First tour “to highlight the plight of workers of the state of Ohio who are working harder than ever and still can’t get ahead.”
After meeting with healthcare workers in the Cleveland area via Zoom earlier in the day, the Auglaize County stop was the first in-person visit of his fledgling campaign.
“I think I understand what the workers have been going through for the last few decades. I know what gritty, hard-working people go through, with the struggles of paying for health care, having good schools and access to broadband,” Ryan said. “I don’t think there’s anyone else in this race that understands these things better than I do.”
The 47-year-old Democrat, who was reared Catholic and opposed abortion when first elected to Congress in 2002, announced in 2015 that he favored a woman’s right to choose abortion. In selecting New Knoxville for his first campaign stop since announcing his candidacy, Ryan found himself at ground zero for the Right To Life movement that likely will have a crucial voice in his election bid.
The candidate said he will focus on economic issues to woo those voters “and talk about what workers have been going through for a long time. They’ve been working harder than ever and doing everything right, but they still can’t get ahead,” Ryan said. “I think they’re going to want a senator who’s going to cut ‘em in on the deal.”
Ohio will lose one congressional seat as a result of new census figures released Monday. The redrawing of political maps is set to begin later this year. His Youngstown/Warren/parts-of-Akron district likely will vanish when Ohio redraws congressional districts, but Democrats see the new map as an opportunity to reclaim control of several of the 15 remaining seats.
Asked if the redistricting figured in Ryan’s decision to seek the vacant Ohio Senate seat, he said “not at all.”
“We’re at a crossroads in Ohio, and we want to double down on the future and the jobs of the future,” Ryan said. “We can’t dominate the future if we’re divided” by Republican and Democrat ideology.
“We want to be part of the solution and help bridge that divide,” the candidate said.
Ryan, the lone Democrat thus far to announce his candidacy for the Ohio Senate seat, is closely aligned with organized labor. He hopes to appeal to blue-collar and disaffected voters who supported Donald Trump in the past.
Portman’s decision to retire in 2022 prompted a handful of Republicans to jump into the race. Seen as the front-runners are Josh Mandel, the former state treasurer and three-time Senate candidate; and Jane Timken, the former Ohio Republican Party chair. Other GOP candidates include businessmen Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno.