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Can a Republican topple Ryan?

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan faces a Republican opponent every two years and has never had any problems beating the challenger.

Except when he ran for the open seat in 2002, Ryan’s Republican opponents have had no or minimal political experience.

While Republican Donald Trump was very competitive in his 2016 presidential bid in the 13th District — losing 51 percent to 45 percent to Democrat Hillary Clinton — Ryan, D-Howland, beat Republican Richard Morckel 68 percent to 32 percent. Ryan outperformed Clinton, who topped the Democratic ticket, 68 percent to 51 percent. Morckel isn’t Trump, but the Akron Republican received no benefit from the president in Ryan’s district.

Republican Chris DePizzo challenged Ryan in 2018, and while Ryan’s percentage took a hit, he still won 61 percent to 39 percent.

The 13th District is certainly not as reliably blue as it was years ago, but Republicans specifically drew it — and three other districts — to be Democratic so they could control the 12 other districts in the state.

But with Trump a popular figure in the 13th — which includes portions of Trumbull, Mahoning, Portage, Summit and Stark counties — and on the ballot for re-election this year, Republicans are jumping at the chance to take on Ryan.

And it’s a lot of them. Seven to be exact.

They include Duane Hennen of Warren, Robert J. Santos of Austintown, Jason Mormando of Austintown and Donald Truex of Rittman, who are all running for office for the first time.

As I mentioned last month, Truex is from Wayne County, which isn’t in the 13th District. There’s no requirement for candidates to live in the congressional district — and we’ve had a few examples over the years of candidates from outside a congressional district running. It’s going to be tough for Truex to compete.

Actually, it’s going to be challenging for the other three to compete as well.

Also, Morckel is running again. He failed to impress in 2016.

Louis G. Lyras of Campbell is also on the ballot. This is his first time as a certified candidate. He tried in 2018 to run as an independent but failed to collect enough signatures and didn’t make the ballot.

The remaining candidate is also viewed as the GOP primary front-runner.

Christina M. Hagan of Alliance served four two-year terms in the Ohio House, winning her first election in 2010. She ran in the 2018 Republican primary for the 16th Congressional District seat, losing to Anthony Gonzalez 53.1 percent to 40.8 percent. Gonzalez went on to win the seat in the general election.

Hagan has already picked up a number of endorsements, including from former Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who considered running for the seat, for the March 17 primary.

She also has the backing of Thomas McCabe, Mahoning County Republican Party chairman, who is supporting her over three candidates from his county.

“She has a proven track record of leading on tough issues and winning for her community,” he said. “She is the type of representative that will work, serve and restore America’s middle class.”

Trumbull County Republican Party Chairman Kevin Wyndham said his county party bylaws don’t permit him to endorse a candidate in the primary.

The Republican chairmen in Summit and Stark counties had words of support for Hagan.

Also, she’s tied herself to Trump — as have some of the other Republican candidates seeking the 13th District nomination. Whoever wins the primary will be on the same general-election ballot as the president.

Hagan is Ryan’s strongest challenge in any re-election he’s had.

But here are a few questions if Hagan wins the primary:

How will her strong pro-life, pro-Second Amendment positions play in the general election? It will help in the Republican primary, but she has to convince independents and Democrats to back her in November.

How many voters in Mahoning County will confuse her with state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan and her husband, Robert F. Hagan, a former longtime state legislator? Christina is the political opposite of the two Democrats who share her last name, but that doesn’t mean some voters won’t make that mistake.

Skolnick covers politics for The

Vindicator and the Tribune Chronicle.

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