By Morgan Petronelli and Alyssa Weston
Youngstown was bursting with energy as community members and local politicians gathered in front of the Youngstown Business Incubator to witness Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13) kick off his 2020 presidential campaign with a rally.
The Niles, Ohio, native is an outspoken advocate for blue collar workers, and has recently been the center of media attention for trying to persuade General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra to reopen the GM Lordstown plant that saw its last Chevy Cruze roll out in March.
Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan, Warren Mayor William D. Franklin and Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown took the stage prior to Ryan to rev up the crowd and announce their support for the moderate Democrat.
Throughout his speech, Ryan repeatedly emphasized his stance of having the backs of rural America and supporting the development of Rust Belt cities like Youngstown.
“When you talk about reinvesting in communities like ours, which I have spent the last 19 years of my public life trying to do, trying to make sure that communities like ours aren’t forgotten,” Ryan said. “The flyover states are my states. The flyover states are your states, and the flyover states are gonna start governing in the United States of America.”
Ryan acknowledged that the country is divided and said he plans to bring both parties together to make improvements in both rural and urban America.
“I’m running for president first and foremost, trying to bring this country back together because a divided country is a weak country,” Ryan said.
He also mentioned his goal of helping Americans become the best versions of themselves.
“I will tell you that if there is one value that I will bring to the highest office in the land … When I wake up, it’s going to be how today can I use every ounce of power that this office has to help ordinary people do something extraordinary today in America?”
In a post-rally press conference, Ryan said he plans on mobilizing young voters by challenging them to help solve today’s “big problems” because he said they are the future of America.
“Our job at the government is to provide opportunity, and make sure [young people] can get through school without huge economic burdens,” Ryan said. “And that there’s early stage capital investment if they want to start a business and be creative, or incubators to go to like we’ve done here in Warren and in Youngstown and in Akron, where people can come in and really generate the next generation of ideas.”
Carson Markley, president of the College Democrats at Youngstown State University and outreach organizer for the Mahoning Young Democrats, said young, college age voters should get behind Ryan because of his large support of education.
“Tim Ryan’s a guy who understands the importance of getting education,” Markley said. “He wants to see people get the help that they need. So, he wants to send workers back to college. He wants to send us to college to make sure we revamp the economy in a different way.”
Markley said what sets the congressman apart from the rest of the packed Democratic ticket is his advocacy for the Rust Belt.
“You hear from a lot of people who are trying to stand up for social issues or a different economic policy and running on African American or Asian or being a woman or being from this area of the country, but nobody has really set up and said, ‘I’m a Rust Belt guy,’” Markley said.
Dante Colaluca, a sophomore political science-public management major at YSU, said he supports a number of Ryan’s ideas for the country.
“[Ryan] really cares about the middle class Americans, and Donald Trump, I really feel that he only cares about the top 1%,” he said. “I think that Tim Ryan can really bring it back to the country and middle America.”
Youngstown boxing legend Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini attended the rally in support for Ryan.
Mancini said Ryan understands the goals, dreams, ambitions, pain and sorrows of the Mahoning Valley and will reflect that into the White House.
“[Ryan] represents and stands behind the elderly, the youth, the vets, the homeless. We want one of us in office to hopefully help us reach our dream goals,” he said.
Michele Lepore-Hagan, democratic representative of Ohio’s 58th congressional district, was present at the rally to encourage Ryan’s bid for president.
In Lepore-Hagan’s opinion, supporting Ryan is the right thing to do for Ohio, the midwest and the entire nation.
“He is not going to let us down,” she said. “He’s talking to us directly and when he makes a promise to us, he will keep his promise.”
The first Democratic presidential debate will be June 26 and 27 in Miami, Florida.
The two day event will require candidates to receive a minimum of 65,000 unique donations, with 200 of those donations from 20 different states. Also, due to a large Democratic presidential candidate pool, 18 at the time of publication, the Democratic National committee has limited the number of debate spots to 20.