Progressive Democrat Morgan Harper enters U.S. Senate race, setting up challenge to Tim Ryan
Lawyer and former U.S. House candidate Morgan Harper entered the race for Ohio Senate on Wednesday, emerging as the first opponent to U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan in next year's Democratic primary.
Harper unsuccessfully ran in 2020 as a progressive challenger to U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty in Ohio's 3rd Congressional District. For her Senate bid, Harper said she wants to mobilize voters who don't feel represented by their leaders and address issues like housing, climate change and abortion access.
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“We as Democrats need to be focused on winning," she said in a recent interview. "It’s clear that what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working in that way. ... We want leaders that are reflecting the fight and the struggle that is happening on the ground.”
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Harper, who spent the first nine months of her life in a foster home, said her political involvement stems from watching her mother struggle with finances when she was a child. She currently serves as an adviser for the American Economic Liberties Project and previously worked for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Harper also co-founded Columbus Stand Up, which distributes masks and provides people with rides to their polling places or COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
"It all is rooted in a real belief and understanding for the power that our community has when we come together," she said.
Harper has pledged not to accept donations from corporate political action committees. Her 2020 campaign got a boost from Justice Democrats, an organization that's backed progressive candidates like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Ohio Sen. Nina Turner.
Ryan launched his Senate bid in April, giving him months to raise money and attract support without a primary challenger. He brought in over $2.2 million in the second quarter of this year and transferred over $1 million from his congressional campaign to pad his Senate account.
Beatty endorsed Ryan earlier this month.
Harper's candidacy guarantees a primary for the Democratic nomination, but that side of the race to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman is still far less turbulent than the Republican contest. Five candidates have already jumped into the GOP primary, and state Sen. Matt Dolan has embarked on a listening tour to help determine whether he should run.
Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.