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Rep. Tim Ryan Enters 2020 Presidential Race

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, speaks at the Heartland Forum on the campus of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Saturday, March 30, 2019.
Nati Harnik
Associated Press
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, speaks at the Heartland Forum on the campus of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Saturday, March 30, 2019.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles) is running for president.

After months of speculation, the 45-year-old announced his 2020 Democratic primary bid Thursday on ABC's "The View." He plans an official kickoff rally in downtown Youngstown Saturday, where a big turnout by organized labor is expected.

In his announcement, Ryan focused on two themes: repairing a divided country and stopping the loss of blue-collar jobs.

"This has been going on a long time, our country has been divided for a long time," Ryan said. "And I can go back to the late 1970s when my father-in-law lost his job when Youngstown Sheet and Tube closed."

Ryan, who represents Ohio’s 13th congressional district in Northeast Ohio, resisted being labeled a political centrist by "The View" hosts, who pointed out he's a recreational hunter with past backing from the National Rifle Association. In 2015, he reversed his past opposition to abortion in favor of abortion rights.

"I'm a progressive who knows how to talk to working class people, and I know how to get elected in working class districts, because at the end of the day, the progressive agenda is what's best for working families," Ryan said.

Ryan made an unsuccessful bid to replace Nancy Pelosi as House Democratic leader in 2016. He focused on labor issues during his time in Congress, and is an outspoken critic of General Motors' recent decision to close a plant in Lordstown.

In March, Ryan said he began considering a presidential run after Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) opted to not join the race.

“When Sherrod Brown decided not to run, I started to look a little closer at it,” Ryan said to the Akron Press Club. “Because I felt like Sherrod was talking about the issues many of us were concerned about.”

On his new campaign website, Ryan says that he plans to focus on public education, health care and the economy.

Ryan represents the district formerly held by the late Democratic Rep. Jim Traficant, for whom he worked. The blue-collar area swung strongly for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Bringing those voters back into the fold will be critical in 2020, said Mahoning County Democratic Chairman David Betras. He said that Trump's victory hinged on 77,000 working class votes in four states and that he had a "news flash" for the Democratic National Committee.

"I'm willing to bet we're going to win California and New York (with our current strategy), but can we win Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio? I'm not so sure," Betras said.

The president of the Mahoning-Trumbull AFL-CIO Labor Council, Bill Padisak, said many of the lifelong Democratic voters in the area who defected to vote for Trump, a Republican, would return to the Democratic Party for the right candidate.

"It seemed more like an anti-Hillary vote (in 2016)," he said. "But based on the president's performance, a lot of people regret it. They're like, 'No, this wasn't what I wanted in a president.'"

Ryan served in Congress since 2003 and, before that, spent two years in the Ohio Senate.

He joins an already crowded field of Democratic candidates. The first of 12 Democratic primary debates is set for June, and Ryan will need to either poll above 1 percent in three polls or meet a grassroots donations threshold to qualify. Ryan must collect contributions from at least 65,000 donors, with a minimum of 200 each in 20 states.