Ohio Democrats running for U.S. Senate focus on helping families, adding jobs

The three Democrats running for U.S. Senate have priorities in common and contend the senate needs another Democrat from Ohio in order to pass stalled legislation they contend would help families, add jobs and protect voting rights.

The Democratic primary candidates are: attorney Morgan Harper of Columbus, businesswoman Traci “TJ” Johnson of Hilliard and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland Twp. in Trumbull County.

They all support increasing the minimum wage, reforming the filibuster, continuing humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, federal support for child care and universal preschool, funding for COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines, and increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations to pay for initiatives they say will help everyday people. The candidates also support immigration reform that would give a path to citizenship to the estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

All three criticized the Republican senate primary candidates making the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

“They’re clearly trying to appeal to Trump to try to win his endorsement,” Ryan said “So they’re all scared to death of saying the wrong thing. So they’ve got to perpetuate the big lie.”

State Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, is the only one of the seven Republican candidates who says Democrat Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. Multiple investigations, election audits and court rulings have found no evidence of widespread fraud or election problems, and Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security in 2020 declared the election the most secure in U.S. history.

“We need to be aggressive in countering the continued lies that are coming from the GOP, and we need to be countering it with a positive vision of what we want our future to be about as Ohioans,” Harper said.

Johnson said the Republicans “are off message” and not attuned to the needs of everyday Ohioans and businesses.

“I believe people are fed up, they’re tired, they’re frustrated. They’re tired of the violence, they’re tired of the divisiveness, they’re tired of polarization,” Johnson said.

“It may appear through Trumpism that that works. But at the end of the day, people seriously just want to have safe communities, go to the grocery store and be able to pay for food and gas and prescription drugs. At the end of the day businesses want fair and equitable lending practices so that they can get money from the banks. Small businesses want access to capital. They want lending options so that they can buy hardware and software, hire people, pay benefits.”

The Republican primary candidates are: Dolan, Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons, former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel of Beachwood, businessman Neil Patel of Westerville, businessman Mark Pukita of Dublin, former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken of Canton and author and businessman J.D. Vance of Cincinnati.

A story about the GOP candidates will appear in the April 17 edition of the Dayton Daily News.

The winner of each primary will face off in November to fill the seat now held by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who is retiring.

Here’s a look at the Democrats.

Name: Morgan Harper
Age: 38
Address: Columbus
Education: Juris Doctor-Stanford Law School; Master's in public policy-Princeton University; undergraduate-Tufts University
Family: Engaged
Current Employment:Attorney and political candidate
Political Experience:Ran unsuccessfully in Democratic primary for U.S. Congress, 3rd District in 2020
Political Party:Democratic


Harper believes campaign contributions from corporate political action committees are a big part of what is wrong in Washington D.C.

“We need to get money out of politics, the special interests have just corrupted Washington D.C.,” Harper said. “I’ve committed to not taking corporate PAC money.”

She calls those contributions “bribes” given to influence Congress to either stop bills or pass ones favorable to corporations.

“In order to be able to bring our manufacturing sectors back, we have to acknowledge we have a concentration of power among a few large multinationals that have been able to both dominate the economy and chase profits in other parts of the globe over prioritizing the needs of Ohioans, and then use their influence to bribe politicians in Washington,” Harper said.

She called for refreshing and enforcing antitrust laws, allowing Medicare to negotiate pharmaceutical prices and using a windfall profits tax to battle what she calls corporate “profiteering.”

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Harper is critical of Ryan’s taking contributions from corporate PACs and from U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who has helped thwart Democrats efforts to pass key parts of the Biden agenda.

The bulk of the $8.5 million in contributions Ryan’s campaign reported as of Dec. 31 came from individuals, according to data compiled by the nonprofit OpenSecrets. Much of his PAC money comes from unions and other Democratic Party-leaning groups, but he has accepted some money from corporate PACs. Ryan says the contributions do not keep him from voting in ways that help Ohioans and didn’t stop him from supporting legislation that Manchin opposed.

“I always have and always will be on the side of Ohio workers. I’m proud to have voted against the bad trade deals that took good-paying jobs out of Ohio and to have pushed for legislation that would help workers by making it easier to join a union or capping the costs of prescription drugs,” Ryan said.

Harper is making her second run for office, having run unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary in 2020 against U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus.

Harper co-founded and is executive director of Columbus Stand Up!, a grassroots group that distributed face masks and transported people to the polls and to get COVID-19 vaccines. She previously worked at the American Economic Liberties Project and the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Her plan proposes creating 600,000 jobs in 10 years by partnering with “responsible companies,” unions and innovation labs to make huge investments in research and development and manufacturing.

“(The plan) will create family-sustaining union jobs for people with high school degrees, including jobs in the renewable energy sector, electric car manufacturing, and other clean energy jobs, because Ohio must be a state of the future,” Harper said.

She also supports “creating debt-free training,” expanding Medicare to everyone and pausing the federal gas tax to help with gas prices. And she wants to cancel all federal and private student loan debt.

“It is a multigenerational debt burden across the country and across our state,” Harper said. “We need to get rid of it.”

Name: Traci "TJ" Johnson
Age: 57
Address: Hilliard, Ohio
Education: Bachelor's in political science-Ohio University
Family: Not applicable
Current Employment:President of Tra'Bian Enterprises in Dublin
Political Experience:30 years of community activism with the Democratic Party, 20 years as an elected ward committeewoman
Political Party:Democrat


Johnson wants to end the partisan divides she said led people to lose faith in their leaders.

“My top priority is to unify Ohio because we are dangerously divided, as with our nation. We really need to come together if we are going to get anything done,” Johnson said. “By electing leaders who are focused on the common good, you create people who are focused on that common good because it helps. It’s not divisive or polarizing.”

Johnson previously worked for Ohio’s Office of Budget and Management, Attorney General and Environmental Protection Agency, but this is her first run for public office.

She said she would be an advocate for workers; LGBTQ, abortion, and voting rights; economic equality; and the environment.

“(I’m) not afraid to take on pharmaceutical companies and bring down premiums and lower prescription drugs,” Johnson said.

She also supports gun law reforms that will “get guns off the street” and wants to reform the criminal justice system.

Workforce development is also a priority for Johnson, owner of Tra’Bian Enterprises, a Dublin information technology company. She supports more funding to up-skill workers through apprenticeship programs, trade schools and other training efforts. She said there should be a special focus on training for jobs in clean energy, advanced technologies and hybrid and electric vehicle manufacturing.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Johnson called for canceling federal student loan debt, which currently totals about $1.6 trillion, and boosting Pell grants.

She wants to suspend the federal gas tax, impose a windfall profits tax on oil and gas companies and supports Biden’s decision to draw on oil reserves to help lower gas prices.

Johnson supports Biden’s efforts to “to undo the damage that President Trump did (with immigration). We have values as Americans and we need to reestablish those values: ethics, integrity, decency and respect, unity, togetherness. That’s us. That’s the United States.”

She believe the U.S. should welcome immigrants.

“President Trump fundamentally did not understood how to keep America safe. Because contraband that he suggested was coming under the wall, through the wall and over the wall actually comes through our legal ports of entry,” Johnson said. “And he was obsessed with building a wall, which didn’t address the security challenge and just cost us a lot of money.”

Name: Tim Ryan
Age: 48
Address: Howland Twp. In Trumbull County
Education: Bachelor's in political science-Bowling Green State University; Juris Doctor-University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law
Family: Wife, two sons, one daughter
Current Employment:Member U.S House of Representatives since January 2003
Political Experience:U.S. Congress, Ohio senator January 2001-January 2003; former president of Trumbull County Young Democrats
Political Party:Democrat


Ryan’s priorities are creating jobs, protecting workers and “outcompeting” China.

“Making sure that the government policies, our trade policies that we enact, are bringing jobs and investment back home,” Ryan said. “Making sure that we are rebuilding the country, infrastructure and investing in our families. Making sure that if you’re out there busting your rear end, doing everything right, that the policies are on your side. Paid family leave, universal preschool, tax cuts for working people.”

Ryan says he wants to “cut workers in on the deal.”

“Get away from the philosophy that if the investment bankers are doing great then everything is fine,” Ryan said.

He co-sponsored the proposed Social Security 2100 Act, which would shore up the trust fund, increase benefits, and base cost-of-living increases on the kinds of costs older Americans are more likely to incur, such as health care bills. The reform would be funded by expanding the payroll tax cap on high-income workers.

Ryan criticized the 1992 North American Free Trade Agreement and decades-old trade policies with China for decimating jobs in Ohio, including in the Dayton region and the Mahoning Valley area he’s represented in Congress since 2003. Ryan said he voted for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement in 2020 because it reformed NAFTA to lift labor and environmental standards to create a more “level playing field.”

He said the U.S. needs to dominate the industries of the future, including advanced manufacturing, electric vehicles and clean energy, and to have more pharmaceutical manufacturing in the U.S., rather than allowing China and other countries to get those jobs.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

“So we’ve got to reshore a lot of that stuff so our supply chains are here,” Ryan said, arguing that strategic investments can make Ohio a world-wide manufacturing powerhouse with the “absolute most skilled workforce in the world.”

He wants more funding for workforce development, including high school vocational training and post-secondary training that doesn’t require a college degree.

He opposes canceling federal student loan debt, but supports legislation allowing people to renegotiate their interest payments with both federal and private lenders, and he wants to expand existing loan forgiveness programs to include farmers, rural health care providers and caregivers.

Ryan said one of his proudest accomplishment is voting for the Affordable Care Act, which provides health insurance and protection for pre-existing conditions to 11 million Americans, including nearly 750,000 Ohioans, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“And another one, I brought back a lot of money to retool the economy in my district and improve the quality of life in my district,” said Ryan, listing funding for downtown revitalization, business and research development, and business incubators. “I’d love to do that in the Senate, too.”

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