Democrat Tim Ryan campaigns in Butler Co., seeks to fill Portman’s Senate post

Ohio voters have overwhelmingly chosen Republicans in statewide races over the last several years with one notable exception: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Mansfield.

But Congressman Tim Ryan is betting he can do what Brown has done three times, former Gov. Ted Strickland did once, and very few Democrats have done over the past dozen years.

“We have a lot of veterans who have voted for Trump twice that are supporting us because I’m a no B.S. kind of guy,” Ryan said after his Wednesday morning rally at The Fringe Coffee House in Hamilton.

The blue-collar candidate from the Mahoning Valley in northeast Ohio said the U.S. Senate needs a working-class person and not another millionaire. He said Brown’s focus is on helping the working class is “a great example of a guy who focuses on workers, whether they’re white, Black, or brown, he’s fighting for them and that’s why he’s been able to win three times in Ohio where (former President Donald) Trump won twice. It’s about the economic issues we’re going through.”

Ryan is trying to succeed U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, who is not seeking re-election. A flurry of Republican and Democratic candidates lined up to be on the ballot. Republicans want to retain the Senate seat in hopes to flip ― or at least maintain a 50-50 split in ― the chamber in Washington, D.C. Democrats want to, as Ryan said Wednesday, be the 51st Democratic vote in the U.S. Senate.

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Congressman Tim Ryan meets with Democratic supporters on Wednesday morning, Feb. 22, 2022, at The Fringe Coffee House in Hamilton. He is one of three Democrats seeking the party’s nomination in this spring’s primary election for U.S. Senate. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Congressman Tim Ryan meets with Democratic supporters on Wednesday morning, Feb. 22, 2022, at The Fringe Coffee House in Hamilton. He is one of three Democrats seeking the party’s nomination in this spring’s primary election for U.S. Senate. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

caption arrowCaption
Congressman Tim Ryan meets with Democratic supporters on Wednesday morning, Feb. 22, 2022, at The Fringe Coffee House in Hamilton. He is one of three Democrats seeking the party’s nomination in this spring’s primary election for U.S. Senate. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

If elected, the Mahoning Valley Democrat said he will work with Republicans and will likely not agree with Democrats all the time. As a signal of his bipartisan efforts, he said, “Trump wasn’t wrong on everything,” and supported Trump’s initiatives on renegotiating NAFTA as it was “in the best interest of the country.”

Ryan said he thinks showing and saying he is willing to work across the aisle will help Ohio and the country is a key to winning voters who backed Trump in the past two elections.

“When those voters hear that I’m not a straight party-line Democrat, that I’ll crossover and work with Republicans, I think that’s what Ohioans want ― someone who is sincere about their best interests.”

While Ohio is a red state ― with Republicans in all statewide executive office and voters had supported Trump in 2016 and 2020 ― he doesn’t see the majority of voters necessarily as red or blue.

“Ohio votes for the candidates, and I think they are going to vote for the candidate who fights like hell for their economic interests,” he said. “(And) work with the business community, bring jobs here. There are so many opportunities out there, but the workers got to get cut in on the deal.”

He said chief executives have seen their pay increase by 1,300% since the 1970s, and workers’ wages remain flat and believes the eventual Republican candidate will be “someone who wants to fight a culture war every day and continue to keep the country divided. We’re not going to beat China if we’re not united.”

Butler County GOP Executive Chairman Todd Hall would only say about Ryan’s Hamilton visit is they “are focused on our own set of terrific candidates for the U.S. Senate and are confident we will retain this seat for the next term.”

There is a crowded field of Republican candidates seeking the open U.S. Senate seat. Candidates include Ohio Sen. Matt Dolan, Mike Gibbons, former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, Neil Patel, Mark Pukita, former Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken, and author J.D. Vance.

Timken is set to have a campaign event this morning in downtown Hamilton.

Ryan is competing with Morgan Harper and Traci Johnson.

Harprer campaign spokeswoman Natalie Kunce said “Ohioans deserve an unbought, unbossed leader who will stand up for us ― not someone who is bought and paid for by corporate PACs and lobbyists.”

Harper, an attorney and former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advisor, recently held a meet and greet with the Butler County Democratic Party via Zoom, per the local party’s invitation. She plans to visit Butler County for an in-person campaign event in the next few weeks, Kunce said.

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