Mooney Grad Returns from Manhattan to Challenge Ryan

BOARDMAN, Ohio – An attorney who recently left his position with a law firm in Manhattan has returned to northeastern Ohio and declared his candidacy for the 13th congressional district, challenging longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

“My only goal is to represent the 13th District and the citizens of it,” said Chris DePizzo, a Republican who on Thursday announced he would seek the seat in Congress that Ryan holds. “I looked around when I moved back home, and found that the citizens weren’t being represented properly,” he said.

DePizzo, a 2005 graduate of Cardinal Mooney High School, announced his candidacy at Mahoning County Republican Party headquarters Thursday afternoon. “I talked to business leaders, leaders in the community, and civic leaders and everyone had the same story — that they had a congressman they couldn’t get a hold of.”

He pointed to the unemployment rate in the Mahoning Valley that is higher than both the state and national averages, and he wants to work with and listen to the residents of the 13th District so he could provide better representation in Washington.

“Our population has been decreasing for years now,” DePizzo told a crowd of supporters. “They’ve left the area for opportunities that don’t exist here.” While other areas of the country have witnessed an increase in employment and job growth, the Mahoning Valley is still experiencing economic stagnation. “This has to change.”

DePizzo said he’s been mulling a run for office for about three months, and began to seriously considering a candidacy about a month ago.

He chided Ryan for spending too much time seeking national attention within the Democratic Party instead of spending more time listening to the concerns of the 13th District. “He’s shown he cares more about his political party than he does about us,” DePizzo claimed.

DePizzo said Ryan’s attempt to sell himself as a centrist Democrat is disingenuous, and that his voting record speaks for itself. “The rhetoric does not match the record,” he said, asserting that Ryan has voted with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi 97% of the time.

Ryan challenged Pelosi in November for the leadership spot and since then has made the rounds of cable news shows to advocate policy positions favorable to blue-collar and middle-class voters. He has also traveled to early presidential primary states, sparking talk that he has his eyes on the White House. Ryan has deflected such speculation by insisting he’s interested in re-setting the Democratic Party’s policy agenda.

This is DePizzo’s first foray into politics, and he says his candidacy represents a fresh alternative to standard Washington politics, adding that Ryan has become a “career politician” that has lost touch with the people of the Mahoning Valley. “Tim Ryan has let us down. I’m running for Congress to make sure our voice is heard.”

Ryan’s seat is one of 36 that the National Republican Congressional Committee has targeted to switch from blue to red. It’s unclear what that means in terms of dollar support for DePizzo’s candidacy.

DePizzo said he’s secured significant support from local business interests and residents, and plans on going door-to-door across the district to get his message out.

The 13th District consists of most of Mahoning and Trumbull counties, plus portions of Stark, Portage and Summit counties.

DePizzo conceded that taking on Ryan – who is seeking a ninth term in Congress – is a challenge. But the more he gets in front of people in the district, he said, the more likely he’ll be able to secure the votes necessary to win.

Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe said it’s difficult to find good people in the community to take the risk and time to run for office, and he is impressed with DePizzo.

“I first met him three months ago,” Munroe said. “One of our biggest challenges is recruiting people to run for office, because it’s a major commitment, it’s not an easy thing to do, and it’s especially difficult in a district like the 13th District.”

Munroe said DePizzo expressed a sincere determination to take this challenge head-on.

“Chris thinks there’s an excellent opportunity to make the Valley understand what Tim Ryan’s record is, and to show them that there is another, better, choice,” Munroe said.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.