U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan has agreed to a March 28 debate and a virtual town hall a month later, but will participate only if both of his Democratic Senate opponents are invited.
“As part of his commitment to a fair primary that gives every candidate a chance to compete, Tim is calling on the organizations hosting these events to ensure that all candidates who have qualified for the ballot are allowed the opportunity to introduce themselves to voters on the debate stage,” Dave Chase, Ryan’s campaign manager, said Thursday.
The only other Democrats to qualify for the ballot as Senate candidates are Morgan Harper, an attorney and community organizer, and Traci TJ Johnson, a Franklin County Democratic precinct committeewoman and IT business owner who announced less than two weeks before the Feb. 2 filing deadline that she seeking the office.
Later Thursday, the Ohio Democratic Party overwhelmingly endorsed Ryan.
Of the 116 members of the party’s executive committee at the virtual meeting, Ryan received the endorsement of 85, with Harper getting nine votes. Johnson didn’t seek the endorsement.
The party’s screening committee unanimously had voted to recommend Ryan be endorsed.
Before the meeting, Harper and some others urged the party’s executive committee not to endorse in the Senate race.
“Party insiders appearing to tip the scales in favor of any candidate over the other does not benefit anyone,” Harper said.
Ryan didn’t participate in the party’s virtual meeting for the endorsement.
Ryan’s campaign said the 10-term congressman from Howland only will participate in one debate: the March 28 event being organized by the Ohio Debate Commission at Central State University in Wilberforce.
Ryan also agreed to take part in a virtual town hall in April — the date hasn’t been announced — being hosted by the Ohio Young Black Democrats and the Ohio Young Democrats.
“Tim is looking forward to taking the debate stage this spring to discuss his plans to invest in Ohio, take on China and cut workers in on the deal,” Chase said.
Since October 2021, Harper has called on Ryan to debate her and had proposed six debates throughout the state.
In response to Ryan’s campaign’s Thursday announcement, Harper’s campaign manager Cade Leebron said: “Morgan has made clear she will debate Tim Ryan anywhere, any place. We proposed six debates so that voters in different regions of the state can participate. Ryan’s staff has not engaged in productive conversations with us despite reaching out and he has not accepted invitations from television networks or organizations offering to sponsor debates.”
Harper debated former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, among seven Republicans running for his party’s Senate nomination, on Jan. 27 in Columbus and the two will do it again Monday in Cleveland.
Attempts Thursday to reach Johnson’s campaign were unsuccessful.
In this Senate campaign, through Dec. 31, Ryan has raised $8,527,880 and spent $3,497,863 compared to $877,788 raised and $440,975 spent by Harper. Johnson hasn’t filed a campaign finance report with the Federal Election Commission.
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