* Served as a Democratic State Senator in Ohio (2001-02)
* Was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002
* Formally shifted from pro-life to pro-choice in 2015
* Seeks to politically “kill and confront” Republican “extremists”
* Lost race for U.S. Senate seat in 2022
Tim Ryan was born on July 16, 1973 in Niles, Ohio. Raised in northeast Ohio, he enrolled in 1991 at Youngstown State University, where he became quarterback of the football team. When a serious knee injury ended his athletic career in 1992, however, Ryan transferred to Bowling Green State University, where he went on to graduate with a Political Science degree in 1995.
After college, Ryan joined the staff of Ohio Democrat Congressman James Traficant. Soon thereafter, he returned to school and earned a J.D. degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law (previously known as the Franklin Pierce Law Center) in 2000.
From 2001-2002, Ryan served as a Democratic State Senator for Ohio’s 32nd District. In 2002 he was elected to represent Ohio’s 17th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he officially took office on January 3, 2003.
In 2006, Ryan — who had been raised in what he described as a “very, very Catholic” setting and was strongly pro-life — worked with pro-choice Democrat congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut on a legislative package called the “Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act.” The bill failed to gain traction in Congress, but Ryan eventually introduced it again in 2009.
In April 2012, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that in 2009 Ryan had helped secure a $982,000 grant to fund a “mindfulness” meditation program in the elementary schools of Youngstown and Warren, Ohio. The Plain Dealer described one particular technique used in some of the meditation sessions as follows: “Mindfulness teachers give each beginner a single raisin. The student holds it near his or her lips but doesn’t eat it. He gazes at it. He holds it to his ear and squeezes to hear its sound. This is done slowly, with a sense of calm. By the time the student eats the simple, single raisin, he is aware of the sensory urges it elicited. If a raisin can arouse all these sensations, so can all other external things. This awareness is the lesson.”
In August 2012, Ryan was arrested for public intoxication in Virginia. The charges were eventually dismissed by a judge in early December of that year.
Following the reconfiguration of Ohio’s Congressional Districts, Ryan’s successful reelection bid in 2012 made him the U.S. Representative for the state’s 13th District.
In an effort to advocate for an increase in employees’ minimum hourly wage, in July 2014 Ryan and his wife took part in a “challenge” — promoted by Americans United For Change – to try to live for one week on the existing minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. After those seven days had elapsed, Ryan lamented: “There is no way my wife and I could simulate the stress levels and decision making that has to go into living on a minimum wage.”
In early 2015, Ryan, who until 2008 had been a National Advisory Board member with “Democrats For Life of America,” described the “evolution” by which he had moved from a pro-life position to a pro-choice position on the issue of abortion. He formally announced his change of heart in a January 2015 op-ed in the Akron Beacon Journal, where he wrote: “I have come a long way since being a single, 26-year-old state senator, and I am not afraid to say that my position has evolved as my experiences have broadened, deepened and become more personal. I have come to believe that we must trust women and families — not politicians — to make the best decision for their lives.”
In July 2016, Ryan encouraged the Obama administration to allow for the use of food stamps for online purchases, stating: “A key step we can take to fight hunger, and combat food deserts is to make healthy, affordable good choices available to the greatest number of consumers. I believe the federal government must advance to the level of today’s technology and allow for the easier use of EBT benefits through online portals.”
In 2016 as well, Ryan supported Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton’s bid for the U.S. presidency. Speaking on Mrs. Clinton’s behalf alongside former President Bill Clinton in early October of that year, Ryan told an Ohio audience that Republican nominee Donald Trump “will gut you and he will walk over your cold dead body and he won’t even flinch.” “He’ll climb over your cold dead body and get on his helicopter,” added Ryan.
Also in 2016, Ryan tried to unseat Nancy Pelosi as leader of the House Democrats. His bid failed, however, as Pelosi retained her leadership status following a secret-ballot vote of 134-63 in November 2016.
Following the November 2018 midterm elections in which Democrats had won back a majority in the House of Representatives, Ryan was initially opposed to naming Pelosi as Speaker of the House once again. By December 2018, however, Ryan had changed his mind. He cited Pelosi as “an honest partner” whose leadership would “ensure Democrats are in the best possible position to fight, and win, for hard-working families,” and he ultimately endorsed her for Speaker of the House.
During an April 2019 appearance on ABC’s The View, Ryan announced his intent to run for President in 2020:
“I’ve got a really long record around progressive politics, especially when it comes to the economy — voted against the Bush tax cuts, voted against the Trump cuts. I believe in investment into lifting people up, closing the opportunity gaps that exist in our society. So I’m a progressive who knows how to talk to working-class people, I know how to get elected in working-class districts because at the end of the day the progressive agenda is what’s best for working-class families.”
In a Democrat presidential primary debate in June 2019, Ryan was asked: “Should it be a crime to illegally cross the border or a civil offense only?” He declined to answer the question directly, charging instead that the U.S. tended to provide better treatment to terrorists than to the children of illegal migrants. Referencing a series of widely circulated photographs showing a father and his 23-month-old daughter who both had recently drowned in the Rio Grande while trying to enter the U.S. illegally from Mexico, Ryan said:
“I think it’s abhorrent — we’re talking about this father who got killed with his daughter. And the issue here with the way they are being treated is if you go to Guantanamo Bay, there are terrorists being held that get better health care than those kids that tried to cross the border into the United States. That needs to stop. I think the president [Trump] should immediately ask doctors and nurses to go down to the border and start taking care of these kids. What kind of country are we running here where we have a president of the United States that is so focused on hate and fear and division? The end result is we literally have kids laying in their own snot in three-week-old diapers that haven’t been changed.”
Ryan drew negative publicity when he was the lone Democrat who did not place his hand over his heart during the playing of the National Anthem prior to a July 2019 presidential primary debate. His campaign team later downplayed the incident as merely a “moment of absentmindedness.”
In his responses to a July 2019 ACLU questionnaire, Ryan pledged that if he were to be elected President, he would work to:
In a September 2019 climate-change forum at Georgetown University, a student asked Ryan: “What effect do you feel that overpopulation has with global warming, and should we be doing anything to combat this?” In response, Ryan proposed that “family planning” – by addressing overpopulation — would be conducive to combating climate change. He also said it was vital for the U.S. to be “active again with international agencies within the State Department,” and to be “involved in the United Nations family planning efforts around the world.”
Also during his presidential campaign in 2019, Ryan appeared at a University of New Hampshire Law School forum where the political director of the state ACLU asked him whether he would support ending cash bail nationally. “Yeah,” Ryan replied. “I think the bail system is inherently unfair, and what it does is it sets people down a spiral of not being able to go to work, not being able to take care of their kids, then you have adverse childhood experiences, and all of a sudden a parent is not at home.”
When Ryan officially ended his struggling presidential run in October 2019, he promised to “continue to advocate and fight for the working people of this country — white, black, brown, men, [and] women.”
Two months later, Ryan endorsed fellow Democrat Joe Biden for president in 2020. Asserting that “I just think he’s the person who has, you know, the sensibilities,” Ryan cited Biden’s “touch with those blue-collar workers that we have to have if we’re going to beat Donald Trump, which is the goal here.”
In April 2021, Ryan launched his candidacy to replace outgoing U.S. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a Republican, in the 2022 midterm elections. Included on Ryan’s official campaign website were the following public policy proposals:
During a September 13, 2022 appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, Ryan derided the Republican “extremists that we are dealing with every single day,” adding that “we’ve got to kill and confront that movement” while “working with normal mainstream Republicans.”
On October 5, 2022, Ryan sent a letter to House clerk Cheryl Johnson and informed her that he would not be voting in person “due to the ongoing [COVID-19] public health emergency.” But he had very recently traveled to Los Angeles for a fundraiser that was expected to bring in more than $100,000.
Ryan lost the Senate race to Republican nominee J.D. Vance in the November 2022 general election.