Congressman Ryan is the man of the hour

By David Skolnick

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan is at the top, or very near the top, of Gov. Ted Strickland’s list of lieutenant governor running mates when he seeks re-election next year, according to sources close to the governor.

“It is always flattering to have your name mentioned” is all Ryan is saying on the subject.

With Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher running in the 2010 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, Strickland needs to find a replacement for Fisher’s spot on next year’s ballot.

Even if Strickland hasn’t formally asked Ryan to be his running mate, the position is there for Ryan if he’s interested.

The real question is would Ryan take the job?

Ryan, D-17th, is in a comfortable and influential position in the U.S. House.

Only 35 years old, Ryan is serving his fourth two-year term and is in his third year on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

If he chose to, Ryan could spend the rest of his life in the House, assuming he doesn’t get caught doing something colossally stupid. It would take some time, but Ryan could eventually become chairman of one of appropriations’ 13 subcommittees. The power of those 13 subcommittee chairs is incredible.

When a prominent political opportunity arises in Ohio, Ryan’s name is often mentioned.

He was asked by top Senate Democrats in 2006 to challenge then-U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine for the Republican’s seat in the upper chamber. Ryan considered it, but declined. Democrat Sherrod Brown, who had previously rejected the offer to run, changed his mind and beat DeWine.

With the recent announcement by U.S. Sen. George V. Voinovich, a Republican, that he wouldn’t seek re-election next year, Ryan’s name was in the mix.

That didn’t last long.

Fisher, with the full support of Strickland, and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner have both announced they’ll run in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat. There are other Democrats who’ve announced, but Fisher and Brunner are clearly the front-runners at this time.

Ryan realizes how foolish it would be to run in that primary.

Fisher’s Senate plans open up the lieutenant governor position, probably one of the easiest better-paying posts in state government.

The person holding that job does next to nothing. That’s why the past few lieutenant governors also ran a state department. Fisher recently resigned as head of the Ohio Department of Development to concentrate on his Senate bid. The lack of work required by the lieutenant governor apparently isn’t going to interfere with Fisher’s political aspirations.

So Ryan’s decision is to keep his seat in the U.S. House and increase his seniority, or run as Strickland’s lieutenant governor candidate with the idea to groom him as governor. State law forbids Strickland to seek a third term in 2014, assuming the Democrat is re-elected next year.

I’m projecting five years into the future, which is never a good idea with politics. A lot changes in politics in five years. But, hey, this is my column and I can write what I want.

Ryan shouldn’t expect an easy path to the governor’s position in 2014 as Attorney General Richard Cordray, among other Democrats, would almost definitely be interested in that job. This also doesn’t include the numerous Republicans who would seek the position.

Of more immediate concern is Ryan’s decision as to what he’ll do next year.

If he decides to run with Strickland, his congressional seat would be up for grabs next year.

His district is heavily Democratic, giving Republicans no chance of winning there.

Several Mahoning Valley Democrats would give serious consideration to succeeding Ryan in the House.

On that list is Ohio Senate Minority Leader Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd, who ran unsuccessfully for House seats in two other districts.

Since then, Cafaro was appointed to the Senate in 2007, ran unopposed for the seat last year and has risen to the top Democratic position in the Senate in quick fashion. She has the money, drive and political knowledge to make her the early favorite should Ryan decide he wants to be on the path to being governor five years from now.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.