Congressman Tim Ryan on fighting for forgotten Appalachia

09/07/2021

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We’re joined by Congressman Tim Ryan to talk about his run for the open U.S. Senate seat in Ohio. We also interviewed Charles Booker earlier this year, who is running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.

The stakes are high for Ohio’s senate seat

Chuck Corra: You know, we talk a lot about JD Vance. I like to call him John Dammit Vance on this show. About how he’s running for Senate and he’s terrible for Appalachia and just Ohio.

Probably terrible for the world. A lot of people ask us who’s running on the Democrat side that we can get behind?

We have one of those people on the show today. Our guest today, Congressman Tim Ryan. Tim Ryan is a democratic member of Congress representing Ohio’s 13th district – parts of Youngstown and Akron in Appalachian, Ohio. We should say that Tim Ryan, also a native Appalachian.

Really interesting guy.

Big John Isner: When we get somebody who’s a member of Congress, they’re going to be primed for an interview.

Like they’re going to be ready to go. Cause they’ve been, you know, they’ve been doing it for it’s like Joe Manchin. You can ask him any question. He’s going to be able to circle the wagon and get back to wherever he needs to be. I felt like Tim Ryan was. One of the more upfront politicians that I’ve met.

Yeah, he did a little bit of politicking, but who doesn’t? He told you, you know, he, he answered your question, which, I mean, that says a lot.

Chuck Corra: Low bar there.

Big John Isner: I know. Like we said about Charles Booker – he’s a guy who could sit down and talk to anybody. I feel like Tim, Ryan’s the same way.

Chuck Corra: Yeah. You can’t find a greater contrast between him and the Republican side of this ticket.

So I thought it was a great interview. I really enjoyed it. And I know that you all will too, so let’s get right to it.

Interview with Congressman Tim Ryan

Chuck Corra: We’re excited to talk to you today. A lot of our listeners have been asking us for a long time “Are there any good Democrats running for Senate in Ohio?”

So it’s a perfect opportunity we wanted to have you on.

So I’d love for you to tell us a little bit more about yourself and why you’re running for you.

Tim Ryan: I come from a very working class family, you know, a very strong union. My grandfather was a steelworker, my great-grandfather was a steelworker. Then my cousins were in the building construction trades, plumbers and pipe fitters, electricians, auto workers, communication workers.

I grew up just outside of Youngstown in Niles, Ohio – which is a small town in the Mahoning valley. My wife is from Struthers, which is very small town, just outside of Youngstown on the Mahoning river. I’ve watched over my lifetime, big interests in the country, whether it was government or finance or whatever, forget about us.

That’s why I originally got into politics. We were left to fend for ourselves. In Youngstown, we got rid of workers or closed down a factory and everyone left.

It was like there was no corporate headquarters that stayed. Some in Akron, which I represent, they had a few corporations stick around to help them rebuild. We didn’t have any. I got into politics because I knew that government could be a piece of the rebuilding process.

My friends all laughed, you know, whether they went down to Columbus or North Carolina or somewhere for opportunity. And I said, you know, screw it. I’m going to run. I ran for the state senate when I was 27 years old, took on the establishment machines and beat them. Then a year later ran for Congress and won and had been in ever since.

Chuck Corra: I’m glad you mentioned how companies have left, and people have left.That’s something we talk about a lot. As we’re sitting here, John still lives in Parkersburg where we’re from. I moved. Now, I live in the DC area because I had to for work-related things. There wasn’t a way for me to make a good living where we are from.

So that’s an issue that we talk about. We deal with a lot. You mentioned in your career that you do represent forgotten communities in this country where plants have closed and working people have suffered. I mentioned my dad being a steelworker, understand that a lot.

And so I’m wondering like what, what should the Senate be doing to help those communities that they aren’t doing right now? And what are you going to be doing provided your elected Senate? I

Tim Ryan: think the big first step is the infrastructure bill. And I think it needs to be big, , because we, you know, we can’t have a half measure right now.

We’re in a very stiff competition with China. , they’re going all in on a lot of these different technologies, wind solar. , they dominate 52% of the electric vehicle market, the battery market there, they’re going all in. And, and what we need to do in this country is have a recognition that look, they’ve got 1.4 billion people.

We only have 330 million, which means we’ve got to reinvest into everybody in our country. And that includes the Appalachian region and the people there that have been left behind. And I think it starts one big piece is what I mean. We, you know, been traveling. , throughout the region, , you know, since I announced and you know, we hear it, you know, daily, , broadband, clean water, you know, roads and bridges, you know, potholes, , but basic infrastructure.

I think that’s the major, first step that we need to take is to plug communities back. Because they’ve been unplugged for 30 or 40 years. Every year that goes by, it becomes harder to get plugged back in and that, and that’s why this investment’s gotta be robust, significant. I’m not going to freak and apologize for it either because these communities have been left behind.

If you want to plug them back in to help us compete against China, we’ve got to make these big investments to create jobs and to help win the competition. You know, coming after that again, it’s, it’s our schools, it’s our health. , you know, those were the kinds of things that we need to make sure are there, but quickly, you know, a robust investment into the jobs of the future, which are being created now.

So when I go down the, you know, I’m from the Mahoning valley Youngstown area, we had auto, we had steel, we had, you know, the auto supply chain. And then we had the logistics, you know, that. And so I think that it’s very apparent that we need to go all in on the next generation of auto, which is electric trucks, batteries, charging stations, um, and make sure that American steel is used in those, um, in, in those cars and everything else.

So there’s an opportunity there and, and we could. The Ohio river valley with factories building these things or supplying these things to me, we’ve got to go all in. It makes it makes great sense to me. And I think that’s how we can really juice up the region.

Big John Isner: I know that we only have you for a little bit more time, but I got a couple more questions.

So right now, you’re you currently have a pretty safe seat. , I mean, you’ve wanted to get away for a very long time. Why are junk now?

Tim Ryan: I think coming out of this pandemic, um, we are really at an inflection point, you know, a pivot point where we’ve got to make a decision and the decision is, do we go backwards or do we sh you know, in double down on the past 30 or 40 years, globalization automation, you know, not, not giving a damn about the communities that were left in that way.

Um, or are we going to really look clearly at the opportunities that are presented and the government needs to be a partner with the private sector, the government can’t do everything nor should it, but a smart, robust government. Partnering in, in very wise ways with the private sector, um, could make this happen.

And here we are in the United States Senate, it’s 50 51. Senator can have a big, , big impact, you know, two thirds of the senators that are down there are millionaires. , I’m not, we’re still paying a mortgage and paying my wife’s student loans off. So we understand what people are going through. And I think, , that voice in the Senate from a place like Youngstown, Ohio, I think could help move the needle.

And that’s why.

Big John Isner: So when I ran for office, I hated, I can’t believe I’m going to do this, but I hate it when people do this, but if I don’t do this, our listeners may stop listening. , you, you are facing, , , you might be facing, I should say there’s this to go, but a guy by the name of JD Vance is on the other side of the aisle, obviously.

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Tim Ryan: Yeah, well, I’ve got a record of actually delivering for Appalachian counties and in our areas.

I mean, you can go up to Youngstown. Look, I’m not here to say that, you know, Youngstown, Ohio looks like Austin, Texas, or anything like that, but we it’s taken a long time, but we, we now have, , a cutting edge added to the manufacturing ecosystem. We have a partnership, , you know, with the new battery plant that’s there, , that we work to get.

And now we’re doing a research, a research center with, , overage national labs, young state continue to build out the battery, , labs. We’ve got thousands of jobs in logistics, which I was directly involved in, in landing. , you know, 17 bucks an hour, which is not bad. You know, where, where I come from. Um, we’ve got an energy incubator in downtown Warren, which is, is, , drawing companies from Tennessee, New Mexico, , in other places around the country that want to be in Warren, Ohio, because of what we’re doing there.

And then, you know, hundreds of millions of. There’s that I’ve brought back river walks, amphitheaters, renovating, , old music halls and, and what I want people, especially in the Appalachian region. To know is that I’m not coming the Portsmouth or Steubenville or coffee and saying, Hey, here’s what I want to do.

What I’m saying is, look, here’s what I’ve done in Warren, Ohio in Youngstown, Ohio in Akron, Ohio, and Kent, Ohio, and these small towns. Any of them that have been left behind, um, with bubblegum and a shoestring, because I worked my way onto the appropriations committee. I was able to bring this money back.

And now I’m Warren, for example, we’ve got a winery, a brewery, you know, we’ve got outdoor concerts with cover bands, , that, that play. And we get a couple thousand people in the downtown, obviously pre pandemic. We got shows at the Packard music hall. , you know, Huey Lewis and the news, and we got, you know, we’re doing, we’re doing great.

Zach brown played at Youngstown state stadium. We are moving in the right direction. And so I’m not saying. Want to do, I’m going to say, look, I’ve done this in my area and we’ve got a long way to go there too, but I can do this for the entire state. I can do this for the entire region. And if you have a Senator that’s saying, I will not let you be forgotten.

I know what it’s like, and I’m here to help and to be your voice and to go fight like hell for you in the United States Senate, you know, these other guys are a bunch of happy talk. Half of them aren’t even talking about. Economics jobs, wages, quality of life, their talk. They want to find a culture war to have a fight about and, and divide us.

And what they’re doing is they’re causing chaos. They’re causing chaos across the board in the country and an adult room. Who’s going to provide some stability and get the government to work on behalf of working.

Big John Isner: , one more and then I know Chuck has a closer, and we’ll wrap this up cause I know that you have, you’re a very, very busy guy right now.

This is one

Tim Ryan: of my favorite things to talk about. So we’re good.

Big John Isner: Well, well, good. , so let’s say, , after election, we, we now have a set or Ryan, which I think it’s pretty good, , coming from the great state of Ohio. What does Senator Ryan, what, what does it look like? For a successful apple actor when you’re Senator what’s.

I mean, I obviously you have a ton of goals for the entire state of Ohio, but let’s just for a second focus on Appalachia when you’re looking back and your Senate runs over what’s what is success in Appalachia? Look like?

Tim Ryan: I like to see big factories, , along the Ohio river valley and in the Appalachian counties, , you know, cranking out electric vehicles, cranking out, , batteries, cranking out, you know, Or windmills and solar panels actually being the manufacturing hub of the world, you know, not just the best in the United States, but the best in the world.

Once again, coming out of the Ohio river valley, um, you know, making sure that we are resuscitating American steel, we can’t go green and use the dirtiest steel in the world, which comes from China. We can resuscitate the steel industry here in the United States. And then I think it’s important for us. To really invest back into our community.

So clean our rivers, , resuscitate our downtowns, you know, renovate the old theaters, , renovate the old, , opera houses, , making sure that those communities in the downtowns, , are vibrant. And then we can’t just have jobs. You got to cut the worker in on the deal. You can’t just say, okay, we’re going to, okay, here’s your coal mining job, and you’re going to get black lung and we’re going to screw you on your pension and benefits and sorry, we’re take the profits out of the region and run.

We got to make sure that we cut these workers in on the deal and that’s where the policy comes in. So, , that’s you know, whether it’s unionization or work or safety or pensions or, you know, health care. Cheaper, prescription drugs. All of those things are really going to be important, but I, you know, this is what I love about, you know, painting in these smaller towns is they, they remind me of home.

You know, they remind me of denials. I meet the people there and I just love them – I love what they’re trying to do because I was, I was that 27 year old who ran for the state Senate to figure out how to keep my friends in the town and how to bring the jobs back when nobody was talking about anything, the politicians weren’t and we needed a big vision for our valley.

I ended up providing that, which was really exciting – to me, that’s what it’s all about. You know, my cousin Donny, he, his last act at his factory was to unbolt the machine from the factory floor, put it in a box and ship it to China. I mean, that’s my cousin, you know, who, who had the deal with that.

And so it’s not just about it’s great. I mean, I love the idea of a vibrant downtown. Renovated theater, young people moving around, breweries wineries, you know, those kinds of things. River walks, bike trails, like we were in Athens. Um, there’s a great new bike trail that they’re trying to build out. That’s stuff’s awesome.

But if the worker doesn’t make enough money and they’re, they’re not seeing it in their pocketbook and their. It’s all for not. And so we want to keep these jobs in that region. And I, you know, I’m excited about it cause like, I’m like I get all geeked out on this stuff. You guys should come and campaign with me.

Um, because. Because it’s, it’s just so fun. Like I go, I want to meet the person who started the restaurant. You know, I want to meet a person in the downtown area who started the new business and just cause I know that person in Warren, Ohio. If I know who that is. And so I think building these relationships, it’s like, look, man, we get, this could be a great run here.

If we all start working together. And the good part about it is most of it’s not really political. You know, most of it’s not like Democrat Republican. It’s like, here’s the theater. We need bill. My first Palm card I ever did. For state Senate primary, it’s run against all the hot jots and I was 26 and, , it said renovate the Robbins theater.

And that’s the old theater in downtown Warren, Ohio. That was like the big thing, you know, and I was saying like, We need jazz clubs. And, you know, we got to renovate the theater without bars and restaurants, and I’ll never forget. It was about three days before the election. I was at a rummage shale going through cause there’s about 10 cars in the parking lot in this church basement.

So I went down and started shaking hands. And one of the ladies said, , are you that guy running for the state Senate who wants to put like coffee shops and renovate the theater in downtown? And I’m like thinking, oh boy, I’m like, yeah, that’s me. She goes, I love that idea. My kids laughed and they, they don’t come back cause they don’t, they don’t have anything to do here.

You know, they need a job and they want stuff to do. So that’s when I knew I was on the right track. And I’ve been singing that song for a long time.

Chuck Corra: Hell. Yeah. I love that. That’s a great that’s. That’s exactly what I think politicians should be doing. , so we’ll close out on this. Um, look, Ohio is a tough state, , to be a Democrat in, , we’ve seen that people like Senator Sherrod, brown friend of the show has been able to win statewide as a Democrat.

What’s your argument to people who may be skeptical of seeing somebody with a D next to their name, whether they’re on the right or on the left.

Tim Ryan: Well, I would say, you know, look, I’ve taken on Democrats. , and I’ve taken on Republicans. It, the highest level in our government, you know, and if I disagree with Democrats, I tell them they get mad at me, you know?

, and if I disagree with Republicans, I tell them, look, I, my interest is in our, the. You know, that’s, that’s where my heart is. That’s where my mind is. You know, we gotta continue to focus that and the government’s focus needs to be on that. So when you do that and when you go and when you show up, I really do believe that that 90% of this is really showing up.

I can’t tell you. And you guys know this. I mean, how many people that we’ve seen in these smaller counties are saying to me, and this is in the last few months, like, thank you for coming here. Nobody comes. Yeah. And, um, I’m just so touched by that because of course I will come here. Of course I will represent you.

Of course, I give a shit, you know, like why, why would I, like I come from a county just like this. I come from a family just like yours. And God, if you gave me the opportunity to be in the Senate, you know, we’re gonna, we’re gonna fight like hell for ya. So I, I tell people, never bet against. We’re ready to rock and roll.

And here’s the thing, I mean, that’s exciting about Ohio. You look at the history of the state. You know, we led the world in steel, you know, all through the Ohio river valley, Youngstown Cleveland. We led the world in rubber and tires and Akron glass and Toledo agriculture aerospace in the Southwest part of the state, you know, football in, in central Ohio at Ohio state.

And, you know, like getting nasty. , astronauts, you know, generals, , throughout the ages and in our country. So like we’re prime to like step back into our role as leading again. And that’s, that’s an exciting thing to be a part of. And I want, you know, my new buddy, , Dale and port Smith, who started a CrossFit gym down there, , to know that he’s part of us doing this and it’s not going to happen.

Like if Portsmouth, Ohio doesn’t come. There is no comeback. Like, am I not like rich people getting richer as a sign for the economy? It’s when the Portsmouth, the Marietta is the Steubenville is the Youngstown’s when they’re back then the country’s back,

Chuck Corra: you made a great point and I completely and totally agree.

Um, Carson, Ryan, thanks so much for joining us. I really appreciate the time that you’ve given us and we wish you the best of luck on the campaign trail. Thank you.

Tim Ryan: We’ll do. All right, thanks. See you guys.

Chuck Corra: um, all right. That was her interview with Congressman Tim, Ryan. I look at the polls in this race, obviously this is over a year out, so, you know, anything can happen. You know, other people have jumped in on Democrats side. Th Tim Ryan’s go to the front runner, but some polling came out the other day that I thought it was interesting, which shows he’s competitive, he’s competitive.

He beats JD Vance by one point beats Jane Timken by two is a within I think two or three points of Josh Mendell. So this is a real race and it’s going to be a tough year for Democrats. I don’t want to sugar coat that at all, but I do think there’s going to be one to watch and that we’re going to be watching pretty closely, I would say.

Big John Isner: Yeah. And I want, I want to make one quick note too, about the, , about the interview is. Look, we have politicians come in, um, you know, every now and then a good bit of our interviews and a lot of them, when you talk to them, they, they either don’t know much about Appalachia. They say they do, but they really don’t or they don’t focus on the region.

Like, obviously you could see like what our podcast is and, and really know like, this is what we’re going to talk about. Right? Like this is our focus and a lot of politicians, I don’t think, feel comfortable doing that. Let’s face it like Appalachia is constantly overlooked. I didn’t feel that from Tim Ryan, I felt like he was.

Honestly, willing to talk about what he would do for the region. I felt like he was more direct about, you know, one eye. He understands the region. You can tell by when he talks, he talks about the geographic parts of Ohio that are part of it. That’s not the easiest thing to do. , Senator brown was the same way.

Like he knew exactly where the region was. Not all politicians know that. Not all people know that, but definitely not a politician. So I really. I was really impressed by Tim sitting down and talking about the region, not just Ohio as a

Chuck Corra: whole. Yeah. That’s a great point. And something, you know, worth mentioning.

He is a native Appalachian and he has lived there for most of his life and representative for, I think the better part of two decades in Congress. So it was really good to hear from him. And it’s somebody that you know, is, is probably one of the more connected people to the region at a very high level of government.

So I thought it was really cool. Speaking of things that are really cool. The last segment of this show, some people, it might be their favorite. I don’t know, let us know in the refuse or comments or whatever the hell anyway, they call him the, the iron Sheik of beef soup flexing the drug Bronies of beef into oblivion.

At potlatches production of 18 Husky media. The views expressed on this show are solely that of the host, John and Chuck, and do not reflect the opinions or viewpoints of their employers.

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