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Candidate of the Week

Morgan Harper
Ohio

"It's our turn"

Defeated by Tim Ryan

To end gun violence in our state, we must address the root causes: by making sure our young people have good schools, access to mental healthcare, debt-free training/education, and well-paying jobs.

Morgan Harper
Policy Positions
Endorsements
Organizations 2020:
Opponent

With two-term Republican Senator Rob Portman’s retirement, the primary for the open Senate seat in Ohio has become a microcosm of internal political divisions on both sides of the aisle. Until Morgan Harper entered the race in August, the Democratic side was dominated by centrist Representative Tim Ryan, best known for his attempt to unseat Nancy Pelosi as House leader in 2016, and his short-lived presidential bid in 2020. Styling himself a spokesperson for the type of white, blue-collar workers that defected in large numbers to Donald Trump, Ryan has the clear backing of the party establishment. Morgan, with her Nike high-tops and Bernie tendencies, aims to be the new face of Ohio Democrats in the mold of progressives like AOC, who similarly defeated a longtime incumbent in her unexpected 2018 victory.

If the primary battle among Democrats seems again to pit ideological wings of the party against one another, on the Republican side there is the now-typical contest between who can most cozy up to Trump’s brand of right-wing politics. Most notable among the five-candidate field is Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance who has transformed from critic of Mr. Trump’s cynical appeals to white working-class grievance into a MAGA bandwagoner. Recently, Vance defended the Texas abortion ban in an interview where he called rape and incest “inconvenient” but valid circumstances under which to give birth. While other leading Republican candidates like former Ohio state treasurer Josh Mendal weaponized this shift, calling Vance a “RINO” (Republican in Name Only), Vance is backed by libertarian tech billionaire Peter Thiel, his former employer, to the tune of 10 million dollars — a bargain with the devil that may explain Vance’s flip flop from anti-Trumper to anti-vaxxer. Regardless of who emerges from the Republican field, anti-Washington rhetoric will certainly be the norm on both sides. Luckily for Harper, her grievances are coupled by policy solutions aimed at actually helping working people.

State

Like many Rust Belt states, Ohio lurched rightward in recent years as many white working-class voters abandoned their traditional support for the Democratic party. While this realignment accelerated under President Trump — with the former president winning the state twice by increasing margins — the sole statewide-elected Democrat, Senator Sherrod Brown, handily won re-election in 2018, signaling Democrats’ continued appeal. In the campaign, Brown emphasized his strong support of unions and the party’s working-class policy orientation, both themes echoed by Morgan in her current quest. While Morgan strongly believes that most Ohioans have reason to support her fight against corporate power, the partisan and intra-party dynamics of the state are major headwinds to her success, with party leaders convinced of the need to appeal to a narrow band of centrist voters in order to have a shot at victory. For example, earlier this year, the party establishment lined up behind Representative Shontel Brown in his special election victory over Bernie Sanders surrogate Nina Turner. In contrast, Harper wants to energize a new, more-diverse electorate to turn out in Ohio with her message of building “the economy on the side of working people” — a populist line that she believes has cross-over appeal.