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Ryan is likely Dems’ nominee

Since Jan. 25, when U.S. Sen. Rob Portman announced he wouldn’t seek re-election next year, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan has focused on succeeding him.

In mid-November, shortly after winning his 10th two-year House term, Ryan, D-Howland, told me he had no intention of leaving that position unless redrawing of congressional lines for 2022 gave him an unfavorable district or forced him to run against a Republican incumbent.

He and I both knew Ohio would lose a congressional seat. Hours after Ryan’s Senate announcement Monday, it became official that, in all likelihood, it would be his district — or at least the redrawing would make his current district a lot less favorable for a Democrat as the Mahoning Valley and surrounding areas have become more Republican.

Ryan may have sought re-election in 2022 — and it would have been an uphill struggle — if Portman, R-Terrace Park, chose to seek a third Senate term. But when Portman decided not to, everything changed.

When I asked him earlier this week if the impending redistricting pushed him into the decision to run for the Senate, Ryan said, “Not really.”

Ryan has made several solid moves to avoid a messy Democratic primary, which he doesn’t need.

First, Ryan and his campaign raised $1,216,187 during the first three months of the year. That likely scared off other potential Democratic candidates.

Then Ryan worked to get several key endorsements to make it very difficult for any Democrat to mount a legitimate challenge for the party’s nomination.

There is talk that Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, and Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce may challenge Ryan.

Don’t count on either getting into this race.

While neither has endorsed yet, Ryan successfully targeted their power bases.

The two other Franklin County commissioners, Marilyn Brown and John O’Grady, along with Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, a key Democrat in that city, were on Ryan’s endorsement list released a day after his Senate announcement.

In Akron, Mayor Dan Horrigan, former Mayor Don Plusquelic, council President Margo Sommerville, four city council members and a school board member, along with 11 officials in Summit County, where Akron is located, were also on Ryan’s initial endorsement list.

Republicans also realize Ryan will be the Democratic nominee with several on the state and national level criticizing him.

Jane Timken, former Ohio Republican Party chairwoman and GOP Senate candidate, already is spending money to campaign against Ryan.

During an interview I conducted with her before Ryan’s official announcement, Timken said: “Tim Ryan has become more and more radical since he’s been in office. He’s proposing things like a $2 trillion bill on infrastructure, which isn’t really about infrastructure. A small percentage is for roads and bridges and what the rest of the world calls infrastructure. Tim Ryan said it’s not enough. The Democrats are overspending and taxing Americans. It’s the absolute wrong policy. He’s going to have to answer to his constituents and make that case to Ohioans.”

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Paduchik also criticized Ryan for being a “vocal proponent” of the infrastructure plan “of which just seven percent goes to actual infrastructure,” and for his “support of radical left-wing policies (that) do not represent the values of Ohio’s working-class men and women.”

Ryan and his campaign embraced Republicans pointing out he supports the proposal, saying it’s vital to the growth of the nation.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee said Ryan is “in lockstep with liberal Democrats and their socialist agenda.”

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Preya Samsundar sent a quick comment: “We’re certain his Senate campaign will be just as successful as his presidential campaign.”

Without a divisive primary, Ryan will benefit from a united Democratic front and save money in an effort to compete with the eventual Republican nominee who almost certainly will raise and spend more than he does.

There are at least four Republicans running for the Senate next year with others giving it serious consideration.

Former state Treasurer Josh Mandel is attacking other Republicans in the race, particularly Timken. When I asked if she was disappointed with Mandel’s tactics, Timken said she was “focused on my campaign.”

Despite some bitter primaries, Republicans typically rally around the candidate who emerges as their nominee while Democrats have been hit or miss with that.

Avoiding a primary against a tough opponent will go a long way toward helping Ryan be competitive against the Republican nominee in next year’s election.

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