Tim Ryan agrees to debate, tours PPE factory as state party endorses

By: - February 18, 2022 3:40 am

American Nitrile CEO Jacob Block, left, alongside VP Damon Richardson speaking with Democratic Ohio U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who is running for U.S. Senate, at the company’s Grove City facility. (Photo by Nick Evans, OCJ.)

Congressman Tim Ryan toured the construction of a sprawling new glove factory in Grove City Thursday to emphasize the importance of re-shoring production of critical materials like PPE. American Nitrile CEO Jacob Block says the half million square foot facility will be the largest producer of nitrile gloves in North America once it’s up and running.

Ryan’s visit comes at a crucial moment in his bid to succeed U.S. Senator Rob Portman. The outgoing Republican senator recently threw his weight behind GOP hopeful Jane Timken. Ryan’s most prominent challenger in the Democratic primary, Morgan Harper, repeatedly called on the party not to issue an endorsement ahead of the election, but that’s just what they did Thursday evening, endorsing Ryan and three state supreme court races. Thursday morning, Ryan agreed to debate Harper.

Others had urged the party not to endorse in the race as well. Christopher Celeste, son of former governor Dick Celeste, and the College Democrats of Ohio both spoke out against the idea.

Meanwhile, former ODP chairs Christopher Redfern and David Pepper voiced opposition to endorsing in the governor’s race, with Pepper calling it a “major unforced error.” Both remained mum when it came to the Senate race. In a press release announcing their decision, the party explained they didn’t back a gubernatorial candidate at the request of both candidates. But in a written statement shared by Harper’s campaign, Celeste seemed baffled at that approach.

“While wisely forgoing an endorsement in the Governor’s race, the state party leadership, and its old school allies, seem intent on tipping the scales in favor of the insider when it comes to the Senate race,” he said. “Why this blatant double standard that only serves to preempt its own primary voters, and unnecessarily discourage actual debate?”

Earlier Thursday though, Ryan said he would welcome the nod from the state party.

“I hope to get endorsed; that’d be great,” Ryan said ahead of the party meeting. “We’ve been working hard, traveling the state, hopefully (we’ve) earned the committee’s endorsement. We’re looking for endorsements from anywhere we can get them.”

But while Ryan said he’d welcome the support of anyone — Republicans, Democrats and independents — his Grove City visit was notable for ensuring he didn’t share a stage with one potential supporter in particular: President Joe Biden.

The president’s approval rating is on par with Donald Trump’s this far into his term according to 538.com, so he’s hitting the road to pitch his achievements. Biden spent the day in Lorain, touting his administration’s infrastructure bill alongside Ohio. U.S. Rep Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, at a restaurant called The Shipyard. Pushing back on those needling him over his absence, Ryan said he wasn’t ducking the president, and while he appreciated the visit, his team wasn’t going to “blow up their day” over it.

“Glad he announced a billion dollars out of the infrastructure bill for Lake Erie and the Great Lakes Restoration, I think that’s huge,” Ryan said. “I think this infrastructure bill is a good thing for him to get around (and) talk about because it’s going to have a huge impact, and all of those people being very critical of me were all against the infrastructure bill.”

Ryan also announced that, after months of complaints from Harper’s campaign, he has agreed to a debate. The one stipulation, he explained, was that all qualified candidates must be on the stage, which means Traci Johnson would join Harper and Ryan.

“I mean, throughout my career, I’ve been in a position where I’ve been, you know, the outsider,” Ryan said. “I just don’t think that’s fair. I think we need to give everybody a shot.”

Ryan, of course, participated in presidential debates where candidates had to meet a polling and donor threshold to get an invitation. Those requirements, in fact, eventually led to his exclusion from the debate stage, but he contends the presidential race is “a different topic.”

In addition to the debate, scheduled for March 28 at Central State University, Ryan has agreed to participate in a townhall the following month hosted by the Ohio Young Black Democrats and Ohio Young Democrats.



Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.