In a statement, Ryan signaled his interest but did not confirm that he intended to take part in the race.
“I’ve heard from Democrats across Ohio and across the country excited about the opportunity to get a Senate seat we haven’t held in decades,” Ryan said in the statement. “I was encouraged by their support, enthusiasm and commitment. The US Senate needs another working class voice, and I am very serious about the ability to continue to represent the people of Ohio.”
Ted Strickland, the former Democratic governor of Ohio who lost the 2016 Senate race to Portman, said in an interview that he recently spoke to the congressman and encouraged him to run.
“I’ve always viewed him as an exceptional political talent. When I heard that Rob wasn’t going to run for re-election, Tim seemed like the person best placed to take on the challenge,” said Strickland. “I encouraged him to do it. He didn’t make a public commitment. But I think he’s moving in that direction a lot and I hope he does. And I think if he does, he has a good chance of winning.”
Other Democrats are considering running for the seat and it could become a crowded primary, though there are also Democrats contemplating the governor’s race against GOP Governor Mike DeWine. Amy Acton, the former director of the state health department, is considering running. Nan Whaley, the Mayor of Dayton, has been considering running for the Senate or governor. Rep. Joyce Beatty didn’t rule out appearing on a statement last week.
The Republican side of the race is also likely to face a crowded field, although several contestants have already said they won’t run. Josh Mandel, a former treasurer who lost the 2012 Senate race, has expressed interest, as have Rep. Steve Stivers and several other members of the Congressional delegation. State Secretary Frank LaRose is also a potential candidate. Rep. Jim Jordan, a top ally of former President Donald Trump, said he would not run, and Lt. Governor Jon Husted and Attorney General Dave Yost said they would not run.
Even if it’s an open space, Republicans are preferred. Trump carried Ohio handily in 2016 and 2020, and Democrats struggled nationwide with the exception of Senator Sherrod Brown, who won re-election in 2018.
Several House Democrat lawmakers and advisors expected Ryan to run for upper chamber after talks with him over the past few days.
Ryan’s borough, which includes Youngstown and some of Akron’s, is steadily leaning towards Republicans. President Barack Obama won it with 27 points in 2012, but Hillary Clinton won it with 7 points just four years later. Then, in 2020, Joe Biden was only 3 points ahead of Trump.
Ohio will almost certainly lose one of its 16 seats in the upcoming reallocation, putting Ryan at greater risk. He’s running out of pro-Democratic voters in his corner of Ohio and new redistributive reform laws that limit the number of counties that can be divided between different districts could put more pressure on him.
Ally Mutnick and Heather Caygle contributed to this report.