2020 Presidential Profiles

Published — April 4, 2019

9 things to know about Tim Ryan

(Tim Ryan via Facebook)

Centrist Democrat enters crowded field for presidential nomination


Update, Oct. 24, 2019: Tim Ryan has dropped out of the presidential race.

Longtime Ohio congressman Tim Ryan fancies himself a bridge between two key factions of Democratic voters: white, blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt who defected from the party to Donald Trump’s camp in 2016, and the growing base of nonwhite, liberal city dwellers.

While some see the Democrats’ future as a choice between the two groups, Ryan thinks he can unite them — and in doing so unseat Trump in 2020.

“It’s time for us to invest in our values so we can focus on what really matters: healing and uniting our nation,” Ryan said when announcing his bid.

Ryan is business-friendly yet socially liberal — a centrist much like former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a fellow Democrat who entered the presidential race in early March.

Ryan lacks the name recognition of other Democratic heavyweights in the race, despite challenging Nancy Pelosi to lead House Democrats in 2017 and again toying with the idea this year. Pelosi prevailed, but Ryan aired his frustrations with Democratic leaders after Trump won the presidency in 2016: “If you take state and federal officials, Democratic officials, we have the smallest number since Reconstruction,” he said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “If that’s not a call for doing something differently, I don’t know what is.”

Here’s more about Ryan’s political and financial history:

  • Several other Democratic presidential candidates have wealth in the millions (or close), but Ryan does not, according to his 2017 personal financial disclosure statement. His assets are valued somewhere between $85,000 and $276,000, not including the value of his home. His liabilities fall between $215,000 and $500,000. (Congressional members are required to report the value of their assets and liabilities in ranges.)
  • General Motors and the president of a UAW union chapter representing GM employees found themselves the focus of a mid-March tweet storm by Trump over the recent closure of one of the automaker’s plants in Lordstown, a village in Ryan’s district (which is located in the key battleground state of Ohio). Ryan was quoted by several news organizations after he fired back at Trump. “Your tweet today is offensive and does nothing to help bring back the manufacturing jobs you promised to my district,” Ryan replied to Trump. “It’s counterproductive and insulting. We all deserve better.”
  • A nine-term congressman, voters re-elected Ryan in 2016 despite many of them casting a ballot for the Republican — Trump — at the top of the ticket. Trump carried three of the five counties in Ryan’s congressional district in 2016, according to Ohio Secretary of State data. According to The Atlantic, about 45,000 people in Ryan’s working-class district cast a ballot for both Trump and Ryan in 2016. In 2018, Ryan easily won his ninth congressional election with 61 percent of the vote.
  • Tim Ryan for Congress, Ryan’s principal campaign committee, raised $1.6 million in the 2017-2018 election cycle and spent all of it, leaving him with about $118,200 left over as of Dec. 31. Some other candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination have millions stockpiled for their races — presidential candidates are allowed to transfer funds from their congressional campaign accounts to their presidential accounts.
  • Most of the money Tim Ryan for Congress spent in 2017 and 2018 went to operating expenditures, such as digital media buys, video production and throwing fundraising events, but the committee gave $132,000 to foundations, political organizations and other candidates’ campaign accounts, according to Federal Election Commission records. The biggest recipients were organizations that support gun control measures, such as the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation and Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, and Democratic congressional candidates across the country, including Danny O’Connor and Ken Harbaugh from Ohio, both of whom lost in the general election.
  • Ryan lags far behind other candidates in the small-dollar donation game. Those contributing $200 or less to his campaign in 2017 and 2018 made up only 8.3 percent of his total contributions, according to OpenSecrets.org, while individual and political action committees making donations of more than $200 accounted for the rest.
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, speaks at the Heartland Forum held on the campus of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa on March 30, 2019. (AP/Nati Harnik)
  • A little less than half of Ryan’s contributions in 2017 and 2018 came from donors in Ohio, according to OpenSecrets.org. A third of his donors were female — unlike several other candidates who raked in more than half their recent contributions from women, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of ActBlue data. Among them: U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who last year unsuccessfully tried to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
  • Ryan, who practices hot yoga, wrote a book in 2012 called “A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit.” In a YouTube video posted by the book’s publisher, Hay House, Ryan acknowledged that some people think it’s a political liability to encourage the practice of mindfulness, but he disagrees. “I felt like I would be derelict of my duty as a member of the United States Congress if I didn’t push this stuff out into society. … Our country is going through too much right now.” In 2015, he wrote “The Real Food Revolution: Healthy Eating, Green Groceries, and the Return of the American Family Farm” and declared in the book’s Amazon synopsis that “the era of the Twinkie and the hot-dog-stuffed-crust pizza has been fun, but now it’s time for a change.” In 2017, he earned between $200 and $1,200 in royalties from both books combined, down from 2015, when he earned between $6,000 and $17,500 from the books.
  • On Feb. 27, Ryan answered myriad questions during a Reddit AMA (ask me anything). He waxed about whether Trump should be impeached (he believed impeachment should wait for the results of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation), what Congress can do to address climate change (“…we need the magic and innovation of our free enterprise system to be a big part of this”) and how to bolster the economy (he likes middle class tax cuts and driving venture capital investments to all states, not just a few). He even praised his former nemesis, Pelosi (“…she has done a good job during the House shutdown negotiations.”). His answer was brief, though, when one participant asked if he supported “public campaign financing” in some form. “yes,” he typed.

Sources: Center for Public Integrity reporting, The Atlantic, Ohio Secretary of State, Federal Election Commission, Center for Responsive Politics, Vox, Twitter, YouTube, The Hill, Reddit.

Update, 11:52 a.m.: This story was updated to add a quote from Ryan. 

Read more in Money and Democracy

Share this article

Join the conversation

Show Comments

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments