U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democratic nominee seeking to take the Senate seat that will be vacated in January by Rob Portman, didn’t mention his opponent in about 45 minutes of addressing a Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce audience Wednesday at CareSource’s Pamela Morris Center in downtown Dayton.
Instead of taking aim at his Republican opponent, Middletown native J.D. Vance, the congressman from Warren presented himself as an ideological moderate and a political centrist willing to take “guff” from his Democratic colleagues to get things done, telling listeners, “This campaign is about how do we get ourselves in the middle so the center will hold.”
He pledged to reach across the aisle to Republicans in the Senate, saying he would take a business-friendly approach he maintains he has already demonstrated in representing the 13th district in Northeastern Ohio since 2013, saying: “Let’s make compromises. Let’s make agreements, and we can move forward.” (Ryan has been in Congress since 2003, representing the 17th district before redistricting.)
“We’ve got to get our minds set as citizens in the right spot,” Ryan said. “Lay down your arms. Can’t have culture wars. We’ve been doing this since Vietnam.”
“It’s 2022. And we’re figuring out, what is it exactly we disagree on? Let’s talk about it. No. What do we agree on? Let’s talk about that. And let’s build that — infrastructure, the jobs of the future,” he added. “All of these things are critically important for our communities.”
Ryan didn’t avoid hot button issues entirely. He touched on abortion, saying he would defend what he sees as the constitutional right to abortion. The question has taken on new prominence in the aftermath of June’s Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That 6-3 decision returned the question of abortion’s legality to the states, overturning Roe vs. Wade.
This month, a Hamilton County judge indefinitely suspended an Ohio law prohibiting most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, extending a previous, temporary suspension of the law
Ryan also said he would protect Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — the biggest Dayton-area employer and the largest Ohio employer in one place —mentioning a couple of times that he sits on the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense subcommittee.
A brief question-and-answer session with the audience brought just two questions, one on nuclear power — Ryan said he’s a supporter — and another from Michael Gessel, vice president of federal government programs with the Dayton Development Coalition and once a chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. Tony Hall, D-Dayton.
Gessel reminded Ryan that the late Sen. Edward Kennedy once wanted to move Wright-Patterson jobs to Massachusetts.
“If you were elected to the Senate, what would you do if one of your Senate colleagues tried to take Wright-Patterson jobs?” Gessel asked.
“I wouldn’t be so polite about it,” a smiling Ryan replied, adding: “This is a great engine for economic development.”
Vance’s campaign said Ryan’s record speaks for itself.
“Tim Ryan pretends to be a moderate in his slick TV ads, but his voting record throughout his 20-year career in Washington, DC proves he’s an unabashed liberal,” Luke Schroeder, a spokesman for the Vance campaign, said in an email Wednesday. “Ryan can try to deceive Ohioans all he wants, but he can’t escape the fact that he votes with Biden and Pelosi 100% of the time. Ryan has repeatedly called for policies that are far outside of the Ohio mainstream, including a ban on gas-powered cars and a nationwide end to cash bail, and Ryan voted for trillions of dollars in reckless spending that triggered the inflation crisis Ohioans are suffering through.”
Vance’s campaign has sought to link Ryan to President Joe Biden, saying Ryan “rubber-stamped Joe Biden’s leftist schemes” after Ryan in August voted for the Inflation Reduction Act.
“I would not vote for the boondoggle spending projects that drive inflation,” Vance has said.
Polls have consistently shown a close race. The USA Today-Suffolk University poll released this week showed Vance leading Ryan by two points.
Vance is scheduled to address the chamber in Dayton Oct. 31.
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