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Ryan declines debate challenge

Morgan Harper, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, challenged U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan to debate her six times and urged the Ohio Democratic Party to host them — but both Ryan and the party are saying “no” for now.

Harper, an attorney and community organizer who lost a 2020 congressional race, asked Ryan, a 10-term U.S. House member who is also seeking the party’s nomination for the Senate seat, to debate her monthly over the next six months, with each event held in a different part of the state.

Dave Chase, Ryan’s campaign manager, declined the invitation, at least for now.

In response to an email from Ameer Abdul, Harper’s director of operations, Chase wrote: “We are focused on building our grassroots campaign, gathering signatures to get on the ballot and listening to voters in every corner of Ohio right now. Happy to discuss debates next year after the (February) filing deadline and closer to when voters will cast their ballots.”

The primary is next May for the seat currently held by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, who isn’t seeking re-election next year.

Harper also wrote Liz Walters, ODP chairwoman, asking the party to host the debates between the Democratic candidates for the open Senate seat.

In the letter, Harper pointed out that Republican candidates for the seat have had a number of forums and will debate next month. None of those events have been coordinated by the Ohio Republican Party.

Harper wrote: “The Ohio Senate seat is too important for Democrats both locally and nationally to allow the Republicans to continue with this advantage.”

Harper pointed out that the state party has sponsored and hosted primary debates, including six for the 2018 governor’s race, which started in September 2017.

In an email to ODP officials, Walters wrote that she is encouraging “campaigns to reach out to their local Ohio media to organize and facilitate debates, something ODP is willing to help coordinate once debate agreements have been reached.”

Walters added the party “will remain laser-focused on building the infrastructure necessary to help Democrats win up and down the ballot and hold Republican politicians accountable for the ways in which they’ve betrayed Ohio voters.”

dskolnick@vindy.com

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