Tim Ryan defends attempt to oust Pelosi as House minority leader

YOUNGSTOWN — The Democratic Party for a long time has ignored working-class people, including those who make up a large part of the district he represents, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said Friday.

Ryan, D-Howland, insisted it was never his ambition to pursue House leadership, but he, like many of his colleagues, started re-evaluating his position after the Nov. 8 election “really rocked” the Democratic Party. Ryan held a press conference Friday in Youngstown to discuss his decision to try to unseat Nancy Pelosi as minority leader of the House. The election is scheduled Nov. 30.

Ryan said President-elect Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton, and the overall defeat of the Democratic Party, had to do “with us not having an economic message people in our community needed to hear.”

He said the median annual income in his district is about $57,000 a year, “which means a husband and wife are making under $30,000 a year each and trying to raise a family.”

“It really bothers me that those people don’t see the Democratic Party as on their side and working for them,” Ryan said. “I thought long and hard about what we needed to do … and my belief is we need to replace our leadership.”

The congressman, who has held his seat for 14 years, said, “I love Nancy Pelosi, she was a mentor for me, she’s a great human being, she’s a member of the Democratic family … but the reality of it is we’re not winning elections, and if this just happened in 2016 that would be one thing, but my colleagues were having the same conversations that we had in 2010, and then again in 2012 and then in 2014 and then in 2016 when the great blue wall collapsed.”

Ryan said he doesn’t believe the Democrats can reclaim the House of Representatives with the party’s current leadership.

“We have to win 30 to 40 seats around the country, all over the south, the Great Lakes Region and in the West,” he said.

He added that the party needs a leader who can go to the different districts and campaign for it to win back the people who feel they have been abandoned by the Democrats, especially leaders on the national level, and therefore have responded by turning their back on the party.

In a Thursday letter to his colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus, Ryan said the 2016 election will forever be remembered as a major turning point for the country.

“I have spent countless hours meeting and talking to members of our caucus, and the consensus is clear. What we are doing right now is not working,” his letter reads. “Under our current leadership, Democrats have been reduced to our smallest congressional minority since 1929. This should indicate to all of us that keeping our leadership team completely unchanged will simply lead to more disappointment in future elections.”

Ryan said Democrats, who lost 60 seats in 2010, have only been in the majority of the House of Representatives for two terms over the past 18 years and last week’s election results set the party back even further.

“The American people need to know we understand that they elected us to fight for economic opportunity for all. We need to create America 2.0 — a multicultural, progressive, and innovative country that fights every day for ordinary people,” Ryan’s letter stated.

On Friday, Ryan said Trump did a brilliant job of expressing the economic anxiety people have and that he “rhetorically anyway, really understood where people were and the anxiety they felt and that barely keeping their heads above water was really starting to weigh on them, and that we didn’t care about them, so they went the other way. They gave him a shot. They gave him a chance.”

Ryan said he believes he is qualified for the role because of his upbringing among blue collar workers in the Mahoning Valley.