LIMA — Ohio voters in the Nov. 8 general election will select the candidate they want to represent them in the U.S. Senate for the next six years.
And the choices couldn’t be more different: A 20-year congressional veteran or a political neophyte? A supporter of women making their own reproductive choices or a candidate who by his own definition is “100% pro-life? A supporter of a southern border that is secure enough to keep out criminals but welcoming to refugees and asylum seekers or one who has vowed to finish construction of a border wall and double the number of border agents “to stem the flow of illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country”?
Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance are seeking to fill the U.S Senate seat currently held by Rob Portman, who announced in early January 2021 that he would not seek re-election. The moderate Republican cited a political climate which he said makes it “harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress” as the basis for his decision.
Little has changed in the 22 months since Portman’s announcement. If anything, the gridlock has become more pronounced and the political landscape has taken on the look of a battlefield both in Ohio and nationwide.
Ryan has track record
Ryan selected the farm of Auglaize County Democratic Party Chairman Brent Hencshen to formally announce his candidacy in April of 2021. Pledging to put himself in touch with grassroots Ohio residents who he claimed were hurting financially, Ryan said he intended to use his campaign to “highlight the plight of workers of the state of Ohio who are working harder than ever and still can’t get ahead.”
A native of Niles in northeast Ohio, Ryan, 49, has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2003. Selecting New Knoxville as the spot to announce his Senate candidacy was a bold but risky move for Ryan, who found himself that day at ground zero of the state’s Right To Life movement. Raised in a Catholic home, Ryan opposed abortion when first elected to Congress but has changed that stance over the years. He announced in 2015 that he favored a woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding reproductive health.
He co-sponsored and recently voted to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade. He has voted against efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and other health care providers and opposes efforts to restrict access to health care coverage for reproductive care.
On the issue of immigration and border policies, Ryan has worked to secure funding to make sure law enforcement agencies are adequately staffed to better keep out terrorists and criminals and prevent the spread of fentanyl and other deadly drugs. But he also supports efforts to make it easier to immigrate here legally, streamline and update our intake processes for refugees and asylum seekers, and establish a path to citizenship for the workers and small business owners who are already in the United States.
Ryan also is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act which would strengthen legal protections for LGBTQ+ Ohioans and ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment, health care and more.
According to the campaign’s official website, he has “taken on the challenges facing Ohio communities by working across the aisle to combat the opioid crisis and investing in clean water infrastructure for Lake Erie. He’s also worked hand-in-hand with businesses to revitalize American manufacturing and bring good-paying jobs and opportunities home to Ohio.”
Ryan has been endorsed by most labor unions in Ohio, including the United Steelworkers, Ohio Federation of Teachers and Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council. Earlier this week he was endorsed by The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.
Vance brings outsider perspective
Venture capitalist and first-time candidate Vance bills himself as the “conservative outsider” in the Senate race. His campaign website highlights Vance’s anti-abortion, pro-gun and pro-business platforms.
While Ryan had a mostly unfettered route to his party’s nomination, Vance faced a more difficult path. He prevailed in a May primary race by knocking off former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and Jane Timken, the former Ohio Republican Party chair, among others.
Born and raised in Middletown, Vance graduated from Ohio State University and obtained his law degree from Yale University. An Iraq War veteran, he is now a successful Silicon Valley investor and author of the best-selling book, “Hillbilly Elegy.”
John David Vance, 38, moved back to Ohio in 2017 to start a Cincinnati-based business focused on growing companies that create well-paying jobs.
“The U.S. Senate needs someone who knows what it’s like to live in a left-behind community, not a career politician who has done nothing for the people of Ohio,” Vance says on his campaign website.
Vance has been particularly outspoken about what he views as the country’s ineffective and unsustainable immigration policy.
“As Ohio’s next senator, I will oppose every attempt by the Democrats to grant amnesty, so that our communities are safe places to live and work and raise a family. I’ll also work to finish construction of a border wall and double the number of border agents in our country,” Vance has said.
During a visit to Lima in April, Vance said President Joe Biden’s open border “is killing Ohioans with more illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country.”
A supporter of restrictions on abortions whose stance has shifted more than once during the campaign, Vance said during a debate earlier this week that he would “spend all my time trying to fight a national abortion ban” if the GOP takes control of Senate.
Vance said he was likely to support a bill proposed by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham that would ban the procedure after 15-weeks and does provide exceptions for abortions required to protect the life of the mother, and if the woman becomes pregnant through rape or incest.
Vance has voiced opposition to same-sex marriage.
He is endorsed by the National Rifle Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, National Federation of Independent Businesses and Ohio Veterans United, among other groups. Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives Bob Cupp, R-Lima, is listed among current state office-holders who have endorsed Vance.
The Trump factor
The endorsement of Vance in the Republican primary by former President Donald Trump became a frequent topic for conversation throughout the campaign and surfaced again during a televised debate on Tuesday.
After describing Trump in a 2016 Twitter post as “reprehensible,” Vance later apologized and cozied up to the former president during the primary campaign. Trump endorsed Vance in April of this year.
That endorsement became problematic for Vance when the former president said at a Youngstown campaign rally last month that the Ohio Republican was “kissing my ass” to get Trump to campaign for him. At a debate earlier this week Vance said Trump was merely making “a joke” with the remark, but Ryan countered by telling Vance, “You were calling Trump America’s Hitler, then you kiss his ass, and then you kissed his ass, and he endorsed you, and you said he is the greatest president of all time.”
Speaking to the debate moderator, Vance said, “This guy goes on national TV and says ‘I love Nancy Pelosi,’ and has the audacity of accusing me of kissing anybody’s rear end. It’s pretty rich.”
“I ran against Nancy Pelosi for leadership,” Ryan countered.