Vance Beats Ryan in Contest for Senate Seat

BOARDMAN, Ohio — In the end, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s planned shock to the world fell short.

The bid by Ryan, D-13 Ohio, to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman was thwarted by GOP nominee J.D. Vance in Tuesday’s general election.

The author and venture capitalist, who won Ohio’s GOP primary after being endorsed by former President Donald Trump, won with 53.3% of the approximately 4 million votes cast Tuesday by Ohioans, over Ryan’s 46.69%, according to unofficial results reported by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

The results reflected a good night for Republicans, who maintained their dominance of statewide offices including the governorship with Mike DeWine’s reelection and securing three state supreme court seats.

“We just got a great chance to govern and we need to use it,” Vance told supporters in televised remarks at the Ohio Republican Party’s election night event in Columbus. “We need better leadership in Washington, D.C. and that’s exactly what I promise to fight for every single day.”

Early leads Ryan held based on early voting evaporated throughout the evening as ballots cast on Election Day were counted. Closer to home, Ryan lost both Mahoning and Trumbull counties, according to the unofficial counts reported by both counties’ boards of elections.

Ryan, who has served nearly 20 years in the U.S. house of Representatives representing part or all of the Mahoning Valley, ultimately was unable to counter the precedent that the party that holds the White House typically loses seats in Congress during the midterm elections, and the headwinds facing Democrats nationally.

“It looks like across the board, you know, a lot of headwinds,” he acknowledged. “We did the best we could.”

Addressing a few hundred supporters after television networks projected that Vance would win the Senate contest, Ryan, flanked by his wife, Andrea, and their and children onstage, said he was “filled with gratitude’ for his family and his campaign team, which helped him run what was “by any measure … the best-run campaign in the United States.” He also expressed his appreciation for them letting “me be me,” he said.

“We have too much hate. We have too much anger. There’s way too much fear. There’s way too much division,” he said. “We need more compassion; we need more concern for each other.”

Additionally, he praised his congressional staff and original campaign team of 20 years ago. “We made this community a better place over the last 20 years,” he said.

He also joked that he wasn’t being entirely truthful in one of his commercials, when he said he and his wife would crack open a bottle of wine if they agreed seven out of 10 times in a day.

“That was a lie. We crack a bottle of wine if we hit four out of 10,” he said. “Seven out of 10, we get the good bottle of wine out.”

As the Democratic nominee, Ryan said he had “the privilege” to concede the race to Vance.

“The way this country operates is when you lose an election, you concede and you respect the will of the people,” he said. “We can’t have a system where if you win, it’s a legitimate election, and if you lose someone stole it. That is not how we can move forward in the United States.”

Vance acknowledged he had received a “very gracious” call from Ryan about half an hour before conceding the election.

“We obviously disagree on a lot of issues” but Ryan “loves the state,” he said. He appreciated the congressman’s effort to reach out and the effort Ryan’s campaign put in, he said.

“When I talked about the exhausted majority of America, Democrats and Republicans and independents, good hearted people have to fight the extremist movement happening in this country. And that’s what the call is for all of us,” Ryan said.

The “highest title” in the country is not president, vice president, congressman, doctor, lawyer or quarterback, he continued.

“The highest title in this land is citizen and we have an obligation to be good citizens,” he said. When he called Vance to concede, he also told the Republican to take care of the forgotten middle class.

Among those attending the function, one of several Ohio Democrats’ held across the state Election night, was local businessman John Masternick, who was chairman of the Western Reserve Port Authority when Ryan led and helped secure funding for an economic development specialist position for WRPA.

“Tim ran a great campaign. It’s too bad the national party didn’t help him out,” he lamented, referring to national Democrats largely staying out of the race.

Pearlette Wigley, a retired Ryan staffer who worked for him for 18 years, also expressed her regrets about the outcome.

“He has done so much for the Valley and it’s a disappointment for the Valley and for the state of Ohio,” she said. “We needed a leader like Tim Ryan in the Senate and it’s unfortunate we’re not going to get it.”

Democratic and Republican state and local leaders also commented following the results.

Vance will represent the area better than Ryan ever has, Tom McCabe, chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party, said. He called Tuesday “a really good night” for the county GOP, from the victories in the statewide races to state representative and senate wins and a potential county commissioner seat pickup.

Ryan “should have been retired,” he added. “Here’s a guy that did nothing for this Valley for 20 years and ran a campaign that misled a lot of people to who he was. Tim Ryan isn’t who he says he is so to retire a politician like [him] feel really good.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland area Democrat, congratulated Vance on his victory in a news release and said he looked forward to working with him when it is in the vest interests of all Ohioans” and to continue the work he and Portman have done to move the state forward.

“Congratulations also to Tim Ryan for running a strong race that was centered in the Dignity of Work. Tim and his team should be proud of their campaign, and I know Tim has a bright future ahead of him, serving Ohio and fighting for working families” he also said.

After the loss, Ryan acknowledged he didn’t know what was next yet. The conclusion of his current congressional will, at least temporarily, pauses a political career that began in 2000, when he bested a field of better-known Trumbull County political figures to win an Ohio Senate seat, then two years later stunned political observers by unseating an incumbent congressman in the Democratic primary and subsequently won the general election.

“This county has been fueled by ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” he said. “Whatever your jobs is, you have an opportunity to improve things, to make things better, to do something extraordinary,” he said. “While it didn’t work out in this particular race for the U.S. Senate, I’ve met so many people that are counting on the leaders of this country to make things better.”

Wigley is among those who expect to see more of her former boss, a “charismatic person” she said she could see seeking the governorship or as an analyst on cable news. She repeated an anecdote Ryan had shared at his rally the night before about Muhammad Ali.

“You’re never down. You’re either up or you’re getting up, and Tim will get up,” she predicted.

Pictured at top: Tim Ryan’s family, children Bracy (not pictured), Mason, Bella and wife Andrea, stands with him at the podium as he gives concession speech

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.