Pat Ryan has a message for his House colleagues: Show voters your fight

Pat Ryan received a standing ovation Wednesday from House Democrats, the morning after he was formally sworn into Congress after his upset victory in a highly competitive special election.

Democrats remain the underdogs to retain a House majority midway through November, as Republicans only need a five-seat swing and are defending far fewer seats in races considered to be draws. But Ryan’s victory, coupled with Rep. Mary Peltola’s victory in the special election in Alaska last month, gave Democrats a clear signal that the political environment has changed and opened up a narrow path for them to maintain power. next year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY), the dean of the state’s Democratic delegation, introduced Ryan at the first caucus meeting since those victories. Peltola had a scheduling conflict, so Ryan was given the task of explaining the lessons learned to Democrats.

It wasn’t just about standing up for abortion rights and delivering on many of the party’s promises, he told his new colleagues.

“It was about showing the fight, and I think people understand that and that’s going to be a big part of what we’re going to see in November,” Ryan recalled in an interview later Wednesday in the Rayburn Room, just next to the Floor of the house.

His race, in a district President Biden narrowly carried, is closer to what many at-risk Democrats face, unlike Alaska’s unusual ranked-choice system.

“So what worked in Pat Ryan’s district is a playbook for anyone running in a swing district,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Wednesday, noting that 222 other districts have a more favorable trend. for his party.

Most Snapshots credit Ryan’s campaign, which he launched days after a leaked draft showed the Supreme Court intended to strike down Roe vs. Wadewith the lightning capture of this moment, especially after the decision at the end of June confirmed the contents of this project.

But, according to Ryan and other veteran Democrats, his victory came because he grounded the race by showing voters how hard he would fight for the cause.

In the days following the Supreme Court ruling, liberal activists grew disheartened as they watched Biden, Pelosi and other top Democrats respond to the landmark ruling with a lack of urgency.

On June 30, Ryan released an ad that began with moving images of him in the military, as a female narrator recounted how he fought “for our freedom.” The ad then pivoted hard to Ryan today in a park.

“And freedom includes a woman’s right to choose,” he said. He then went through a medical background talking about the government “trying to control women’s bodies.” … This is not the country I fought for.

His message applies to other issues. For years, if not decades, voters have told pollsters they’re siding with Democrats to cut prescription drug costs, restrict gun rights, provide better health care for veterans, make the rich pay higher taxes, turn to green energy, and return manufacturing jobs to the United States. shores.

In just seven weeks, Democrats have passed legislation they say will do all of these things. But it is not enough to extol the advantages of these collective invoices, at a higher intellectual level. Instead, Democrats need to talk about who they fought to pass these bills: the National Rifle Association, the PhRMA, big energy companies, big business.

“There’s the level of issues, there’s the level of values,” Ryan said in the interview. “And then there is the [level of] “Do I trust you to actually fight for these issues and these values?” ”

By reporting how they overcame powerful vested interests to get these proposals passed into law, Democrats can prove to voters that they aren’t just winning an argument.

“If it’s not genuine, it won’t work,” Ryan said.

Certainly, Ryan, 40, is a unique figure whose victory will not be repeatable for many Democrats. First, the special election was held on the same day as the primaries in a state where more Democrats vote than Republicans, so his advisers could focus on increasing grassroots turnout.

Additionally, his family can be traced back five generations to the area, where the Ryans have been prominent healthcare leaders for decades in Ulster County, home to more than one in four voters in his district.

His military background also gives him a personal story that many applicants miss: The 2001 terrorist attacks happened during Ryan’s second year at the US Military Academy. He completed two tours in Iraq, then spent time in Afghanistan as a private contractor.

Republicans believe this race was an outlier and that November will hinge heavily on inflation, which public polls show remains voters’ top concern. They believe this was confirmed by Wednesday’s report showing still high price hikes – just as Biden hosted Democrats for a victory party after their legislative victories in August.

“He looks like a jerk celebrating his reckless spending spree as prices continue to rise and the stock market crashes,” National Republican Chairman Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) told Fox News. Congressional Committee.

Ryan does not dismiss inflation. If candidates avoid this painful economic issue and simply run to protect abortion rights, he says, these Democrats will fail.

“You can’t ask people to trust you on some kind of big democracy and rights advocacy issue, if you don’t meet them on the immediate pain they’re feeling,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s second campaign ad showed him on top of a utility crane and told how as county executive he went after ‘greedy corporations’ and big utility companies for price gouging . He put as much emphasis on this populist theme as he did the first advertisement on the fight for the right to abortion.

And those Democratic political victories this summer have given him something to brag about in the final two weeks of the race, a stark contrast to how party infighting last fall left Biden’s agenda languishing just before that Democrats are trampled in off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey.

“I was able to campaign in the home stretch not only to defend fundamental rights, but to speak of real relief,” he said.

Ryan’s career could have ended four years ago when, as a DCCC frontrunner, he lost the primary to Antonio Delgado, who then flipped that Hudson Valley seat to Republicans in November 2018. .

Instead, in early 2019, he ran in another special election and won the county leadership race, and once Delgado was named lieutenant governor in the spring, he jumped into the race. House race.

With a court-imposed card blurring the lines of Congress, he could easily have passed last month’s race. His home will be in a more Biden-friendly neighborhood next year, for whom he is now running in the November election.

But his early days of the special election campaign showed the changing terrain in rallies and protests over the weekend after the Supreme Court bill leaked. And the campaign eschewed the language that agitators on both sides of the issue have deployed for 50 years — choice, life, clandestine abortion, murder.

Having been raised Catholic, Ryan used other terms in his appeal. “To talk about what is a difficult, complicated and deeply personal issue in a way that I think would be largely unifying and would try to really remind people of the shared American value of freedom,” he said.

Ultimately, however, he had to pass a credibility test that many Democrats failed, convincing voters of his ability to pack a punch to back up his beliefs.

“Really for me, the takeaway shows a fight, really saying we’re going to stand up and fight and not triangulate and test the polls and shoot our shots,” Ryan said. “I think that can’t be underestimated.”

Helen J. Jimenez