Tim Ryan’s bid for House minority leadership falls short

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, speaks to reporters following the House Democratic Caucus elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, for House leadership positions. Ryan challenged House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., but lost 134-63. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, speaks to reporters following the House Democratic Caucus elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, for House leadership positions. Ryan challenged House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., but lost 134-63. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Democrats in the U.S. House on Wednesday re-elected U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi as minority leader, turning back an upset bid from Mahoning Valley Congressman Timothy J. Ryan.

The vote was 134 to 63 in favor of Pelosi. In an conference call Wednesday, Ryan said he was disappointed with the outcome but saw some positive light in his vote total.

“The buzz in town is that I was able to get 20 more votes than anybody else who had challenged Nancy,” Ryan said. “I do look at the scoreboard, though, and it was a tough defeat. We knew this was going to be a really tough race.”

Ryan, D-Howland,  said he was satisfied that he could give a voice to Democrats in the heartland, especially about issues that are important to those in the Mahoning Valley.

“Our phone was ringing off the hook the last few weeks, and there were a lot of people who were appreciating our message. No one had been talking about a stagnant middle-class wage, and we are now talking more about that,” Ryan said. “I think our area got a lot of good publicity out of this. I am really happy that I did it, but I am not sure if  I would do it again. “

The congressman, who said he made some enemies in this campaign, said he doesn’t think there will be any retribution from Pelosi, who as minority leader has a say in who gets House committee appointments.

“I think my 63 votes against Pelosi will push Democrats to reshape their message,” Ryan said in reaching out toward the working class. “But I don’t feel like I did anything wrong.”

Ryan said he shook Pelosi’s hand after the vote totals were announced and moved to make it unanimous. Pelosi was elated by the win.

“I have a special spring in my step today because this opportunity is a special one, to lead the House Democrats, bring everyone together as we go forward,” Pelosi said.

Ryan said he was proud to give voice to many constituents back home, plus the constituency of the 63 congressmen who voted for him.

“I am from Niles, my wife is from Struthers, and we know what working- class people are all about,” he said.

Ryan said his bid pushed Democrats to have “tough family discussions” about the future of the party with a goal of winning back the majority in 2018. Before the secret ballot, Ryan said he got the chance to speak to the caucus.

“I was pretty frank and told them that sometimes you have to have difficult discussions,”  Ryan said, noting his reservations about what the Democrats were doing nationally dated back to 2010.

“I bit my tongue in 2012 and again in 2014, but this year , we got slaughtered and I couldn’t hold it back any longer,” he said.

Pelosi supporters said the 76-year-old Californian was their best bet to confront a President Donald Trump from a defensive crouch in the minority after Democrats’ picked up only a half-dozen seats in the House, far fewer than anticipated.

Looking at working with a Trump administration, Ryan said he would be willing to look at the proposals, instead of tossing them out at face value.

“If you are working with someone who wants to  improve people’s wages, then I am all for it,” he said.

For now, Ryan said he would like to take some time to “decompress” with his wife and family.

Back in Warren, longtime Ryan supporter Jim Fogarty was nervously watching CSPAN waiting for the results to come in.

“I am more nervous now than when Tim first ran for office,” said Fogarty, who has been friends with the congressman since their days together at Warren JFK High School and later at Bowling Green State University.

After the vote was announced, Fogarty applauded his longtime friend.

“That’s OK. He made a strong statement,” Fogarty said. “He showed great courage and strong leadership showing you got to go against the grain sometimes.”

Trumbull County Commissioner Daniel Polivka said he also was proud of Ryan’s bid, but he thought Pelosi’s knack for raising money was tough to overcome.

“Tim led the way in showing that Democrats definitely need to change,” Polivka said in pointing out that only four incumbent Ohio Democrat county commissioners survived challenges from Republicans.

gvogrin@tribtoday.com

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