Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan launches Senate run

Ryan is the first high-profile Democrat to join the race

Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan announced Monday that he is running for Senate.  (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan announced Monday that he is running for Senate. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 26, 2021 at 8:42am

Rep. Tim Ryan announced Monday that he is running for Ohio’s open Senate seat, becoming the first high-profile Democrat to jump into the race. 

Republican Rob Portman’s retirement opened up the Senate seat in a state that has shifted toward the GOP in recent elections. Ryan’s announcement centered his campaign on working-class voters, whom he also made the focus of his unsuccessful presidential run in 2020. 

“The success of America isn’t housed in the halls of Congress. It lies in the calloused hands and unrelenting grit of America’s workers,” he said in a three-minute video. “I’ll work with anyone to rebuild our economy, but I’ll never sell out our workers.” 

Two other Democrats recently passed on running. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley announced last week that she would run for governor. Amy Acton, the state’s former public health director, said recently that she would not run for Senate.   

Ryan was expected to enter the race, and he had a strong first fundraising quarter, taking in $1.2 million and finishing with $1 million in his campaign account as of March 31, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. 

Ohio is not one of the eight states that Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales currently rates as Senate battlegrounds, but Democrats are optimistic they can put the state in play, especially with Portman retiring. President Donald Trump carried the Buckeye State by 8 points in 2016 and 2020, increasing his margin of victory by 30,000 votes.

Ryan, whose 13th District seat in northeast Ohio could be eliminated in the next round of congressional redistricting, was believed to be previously interested in challenging Ohio GOP Gov. Mike DeWine in 2022. But Portman’s decision to retire caused him to reevaluate his plans.

Ryan was first elected to the House in 2002 after serving in the state Senate. He ran to replace former Democratic Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., his former boss, who was facing jail time for bribery and racketeering. Ryan won the Democratic primary despite being outspent by Rep. Tom Sawyer, who was drawn into the seat due to redistricting. Ryan went on to win the general election, also defeating Traficant, who ran as an independent from jail.

Ryan was comfortably reelected by double-digit margins until last fall, when he won a 10th term by 8 points as district voters were backing Joe Biden over Trump by just 3 points.

Jessica Wehrman contributed to this report.