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Ryan’s Senate bid likely to be challenging

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan is a virtual guarantee to run for the Senate next year with an announcement expected shortly.

The race is a major challenge for Ryan, D-Howland, in a state dominated by Republicans for decades with few exceptions.

He could face a primary challenge as other Democrats are also considering seeking the office. That would force Ryan to spend money and resources before heading to the general election, assuming he wins the Democratic primary.

On the Republican side, there almost certainly will be a primary that could get messy for the party with former state Treasurer Josh Mandel announcing his candidacy Wednesday and Jane Timken, who stepped down last week as state GOP chairwoman, taking all the steps needed to prepare a run.

Other Republicans also could get into the race, including U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, who hasn’t been shy about his interest.

Mandel, Timken and Johnson are strong supporters of Donald Trump, who won Ohio by more than 8 percent in 2016 and 2020, and would run as loyalists to the former president. With Trump’s success and Republican domination in Ohio, the Republican nominee would be seen as the favorite to succeed U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, who isn’t seeking reelection next year.

Ryan’s biggest obstacles are the decline in his margin of victory with each election over the past decade — including losing Trumbull, his home county, in November — and money.

The National Republican Congressional Committee announced Wednesday that Ryan’s seat is among 47 it sees as “initial offensive pickup opportunities for the 2022 cycle,” describing them as “currently held by vulnerable Democrats.”

The NRCC listed a variety of reasons for targeting the 47. Ryan’s 13th Congressional District fits two categories: President Joe Biden won it by less than 5 percent, and it could be impacted as a result of redistricting.

It seems premature to target Ryan, a 10-term incumbent, as his seat could be on the chopping block because of redistricting. It may not even be there in 2022, so why target it now?

With Ohio likely to lose a congressional seat next year and Ryan focusing on a Senate bid, the 13th as we know it almost certainly will go away. If Ryan decides to seek re-election, he’ll be put in a district not favoring him and probably against a Republican incumbent.

Ryan’s biggest challenge throughout his political career has been raising money.

During this last election, he stepped it up and raised nearly $2 million, a record for him.

By comparison, Johnson raised about $1.9 million for a race he won by 48.8 percent against an absentee Democratic opponent. Also, U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Bainbridge, received almost $3 million in contributions in a race he won by 20.2 percent.

Ryan raised $1.3 million during his 2019 presidential run. That might not sound bad, but it was second lowest among more than 20 Democrats running.

The Senate race will require a Democratic candidate to raise $15 million at minimum, and $20 million to $25 million to be more realistic. If there’s a competitive primary, add a few more million.

Ryan’s most recent campaign finance report shows he’s got $19,187 in his account as of Dec. 31. Johnson had $858,830 and Joyce — who hasn’t ruled out a Senate bid but isn’t seen as a likely candidate — had $732,242.

Mandel, who lost in 2012 to Democrat Sherrod Brown for a Senate seat and withdrew from a 2018 rematch, has a huge head start with $4.3 million in his federal campaign fund.

Money can be raised in a hurry, and Ryan has sent seven emails asking since U.S. Sen. Rob Portman announced Jan. 25 he wouldn’t run. He tried to raise money off of Mandel’s announcement, calling him “a radical, right-wing Republican” and a “threat to Ohioans. His career is riddled with fraud and shame.”

Ryan hasn’t announced and already has lined up support from labor unions that represent electrical workers, machinists and freight railroad workers. Labor will be solidly in his camp.

Ryan must tap every source possible — and then go much further — to raise money if he’s going to be the Democratic nominee for Senate. He’ll have Brown and other national Democrats offering their help.

The cash grab is one of the many ugly sides of politics, but it’s a necessity for anyone who wants to run for a high office.

Skolnick covers politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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