Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan launches Senate bid

The Democrat and former presidential candidate is his party's first candidate for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who is not seeking re-election.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Celebration, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on June 9, 2019.Charlie Neibergall / AP file

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, launched a campaign for Senate on Monday, giving Democrats their first candidate in the race to succeed Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who is not running for re-election.

The 10-term congressman first made his intentions known in a filing with the Federal Election Commission that identifies him as a Senate hopeful.

"The success of America isn’t housed in the halls of Congress," Ryan said in an announcement video. "It lies in the calloused hands and the unrelenting grit of America’s workers. Those who dug the deepest sent our nation soaring."

Ryan, 47, briefly competed for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, offering himself as a champion of working-class voters in the industrial Midwest. He’s also known nationally for his unsuccessful effort to unseat then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in 2017.

His launch video is awash in football imagery — he was a quarterback at Warren John F. Kennedy High School — and features Ryan and his son, Brady, talking about the strength of family and the decline of manufacturing.

"Somewhere along the way, something broke," Ryan says as father and son approach an abandoned factory. "We forgot what made us successful in the first place."

He has been openly exploring a Senate bid since Portman announced in January he would not seek re-election when his term expires next year. Ryan reported raising $1.2 million for his federal House campaign during the first quarter of the year. That money, which puts him on par with the fundraising reported by two of the top Republican Senate candidates, can be applied toward his new campaign.

Ohio has trended Republican in most statewide contests over the past 30 years, with the state’s other senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, being the rare exception. Former President Donald Trump won Ohio by 8 percentage points in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.

Ryan comes from the increasingly conservative 13th District, which includes part of Akron but is anchored by the old steel towns of the Youngstown area and surrounding Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Both counties were reliably Democratic until Trump won Trumbull in 2016 and added Mahoning in 2020. Ryan’s 7.5-point victory over a Trump ally last year was the closest race he’s had since first winning the seat in 2002.

Democrats and Republicans in Ohio speculate that upcoming redistricting will make the boundaries even more favorable to the GOP.

A former state lawmaker, Ryan succeeded Rep. Jim Traficant, who was convicted on federal racketeering charges, sentenced to years in prison and expelled from Congress. Traficant, for whom Ryan once interned, died in 2014.

The Republican field for Portman’s seat features four declared candidates: former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, former Ohio Republican Party Chairperson Jane Timken, and Cleveland-area businessmen Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno.

Mandel and Timken have jostled repeatedly over who’s most loyal to Trump. Moreno, despite criticizing Trump in the past, has stacked his campaign with veterans from Trump's orbit, including Kellyanne Conway. Several other Republicans, including Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance, and state Sen. Matt Dolan — whose family owns the Cleveland Indians baseball team — might yet enter the race.

Ryan could have a relatively clear field. Two other Democrats who had been considering bids — Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor and Dr. Amy Acton, the state's former Department of Health director — have announced they will not seek the nomination. Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes and Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce have also been mentioned as possible candidates.