Democratic Congressman Ryan picks up Republican challenger

On the side

With Richard Cordray’s recent announcement that he’s resigning his position as director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau later this month, it’s only a matter of time after he leaves before he declares his candidacy for Ohio governor.

The big question is what took Cordray so long to announce his departure?

The likely answer is he was waiting to be fired by the president to help him score important political points in his gubernatorial bid. But President Donald Trump, a Republican, was hesitant to fire Cordray, a Democrat, for that reason.

Meanwhile, I’ll be on vacation next week so there won’t be a column.

Beating an incumbent is hard.

Beating U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, an eight-term congressman who runs – and easily wins – every two years in a district drawn by Republicans to be Democratic, is considerably harder.

But Chris DePizzo, a Republican who grew up in Youngstown and just moved back to the area from New York City, is taking the plunge and running against Ryan, a Howland Democrat, in the 13th Congressional District race next year.

It is DePizzo’s first time running for political office and he’s decided to take on the best-known officeholder in the Mahoning Valley for the area’s highest-elected position.

Ryan hasn’t had a serious challenger to his seat since he was first elected in 2002.

Ryan has dropped hints that he’s looking to run for president in 2020, but says no decision would be made until after the 2018 midterm election.

If Democrats were to take control of the U.S. House, Ryan would become a prominent congressman and his position on the Appropriations Committee would mean significantly more than it already does.

Ryan has been a cautious politician who’s toyed with running for the U.S. Senate and governor only to decide to stay in the House. The guess here is Ryan won’t run for the presidency in 2020, but that doesn’t mean he won’t continue to go to important early presidential campaign states.

And DePizzo is going after Ryan’s political ambitions.

In his announcement speech, DePizzo said:

“For 15 years, we have sent Tim Ryan to Washington. We sent him there to fight for us. To fight for our jobs, to fight for our families, and to fight for policies that will help us reach our potential as individuals, and as a community – and he has let us down. I think he may like the big city and the spotlight just a little too much. He has become part of the system.”

DePizzo added: Ryan has “had 15 years to meditate on finding solutions and crafting policy that will put our community back on a path to prosperity, and instead he has shown he cares about his political party more than he cares about us. That he cares more about self-promotion than making a difference for us. Tim Ryan has let us down. He’s part of Washington now, a career politician – it’s the only job he knows. Now, he’s spending his time flying around to places like Iowa, New Hampshire and Boston working to elevate his own status in his party instead of the status of his community.”

Ryan has said his increased national profile has allowed him to tell the story of working-class people in the Rust Belt, and particularly his congressional district to a larger audience.

DePizzo has walked away from his law practice to campaign fulltime between now and the November 2018 election.

He’s going to need every minute of it to compete against Ryan.

While Donald Trump, a Republican, did well last year in his successful presidential bid in Ryan’s district – losing by 6 percentage points to Democrat Hillary Clinton – Ryan was re-elected by 36 percentage points.

The five-county 13th District includes most of Mahoning and Trumbull counties as well as parts of Summit, Portage and Stark counties.

Despite Trump’s good showing, the 13th is considered a safe Democratic district.

Republicans designed it that way.

When redistricting, Republicans drew 12 GOP congressional districts and lumped a majority of the state’s Democratic regions into four districts, including the 13th.

Earlier this year, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s main campaign and fundraising group, included Ryan’s district among 36 held by Democrats as targets. That was done long before DePizzo decided to run, and was done primarily because of Trump while ignoring Ryan’s success.

While Ryan has never been a strong fundraiser, his campaign had $327,320 in it as of Sept. 30, the most recent filing date.

That’s a good start for Ryan, who earlier this year raised a decent amount of money using the NRCC target as a key selling point.

Now that Ryan has an opponent expect him to use the challenge as a way to collect even more campaign money.

If DePizzo has a prayer of being competitive, he’s going to need to raise a lot of money. It remains to be seen if he can successfully do what every other Ryan challenger has failed to do.

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