Dressed in a grey sweater, jeans and white sneakers, Tim Ryan looks more like the college-football star he aspired to be than a man about to take on the most powerful woman in Washington, DC.
Tall, lanky and fit, the seven-term congressman still retains the slim build from his days as a stand-out quarterback from John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio. “I work out in the same gym as Paul Ryan. I definitely have the better six-pack,” he says of the speaker of the House, who also hails from a Midwestern Catholic background.
But this Mr. Ryan is a Democrat, and the man who wants to topple Nancy Pelosi from her House leadership position, a role she has held for 13 years — three of them as minority leader, followed by four as speaker running a historic majority, and the last six spent managing a massive decline in Democratic representation that has led to a historic minority.
“I didn’t aspire to do this until I watched the results come in on election night,” Ryan said, as he relaxed on a couch inside the Covelli Center, a civic building at the heart of this Rust Belt city.
Even so, he admits it will be a Herculean effort. “I just know I have to try. No one stepped up from my caucus to challenge failure, so I could see no other choice but to do the right thing,” said Ryan, who is married to Andrea, a school teacher at Seaborn Elementary just west of Youngstown. They have one child together, a 2-year-old son named Brady, and two others, Bella and Mason, from her previous marriage.
“I cannot look my kids in the eye and say I stood on the sidelines when my party needed me and did nothing,” Ryan said.
Ryan, now 43, was raised by his mother, Rochelle, along with his older brother, Alan, after his parents divorced when he was 10. His grandmother and grandfather, who worked at a steel mill in town, lived a couple of blocks away.