Morgan Harper, 38, ran a high-profile primary challenge last year for a congressional seat with the backing of national progressive groups.,
Progressive Democrat Enters Ohio’s Senate Race, Challenging Tim Ryan
Morgan Harper, 38, ran a high-profile primary challenge last year for a congressional seat with the backing of national progressive groups.
Morgan Harper speaking with supporters at her campaign headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, in 2019.Credit…Brooke LaValley for The New York Times
While Republicans are running a hotly competitive primary race for Ohio’s open Senate seat next year, the Democratic side had been owned by a single candidate: Representative Tim Ryan from the Youngstown area.
But that equation changed on Wednesday with the entry into the race of a second viable Democrat, Morgan Harper, who ran a high-profile primary challenge last year for a congressional seat with the backing of national progressive groups.
Ms. Harper, a former adviser at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said in an interview she would run a campaign aimed at turning out Black voters, women and young people with a populist message of getting “the economy on the side of working people.”
The Democratic brand has been badly tarnished in Ohio since President Barack Obama twice carried the state. In contests as recently as this summer, Ms. Harper’s left-wing vision of her party has failed to revive it. College-educated suburban voters in Ohio may have swung to Democrats in the Trump era, but Republicans more than made up the difference by winning legions of white working-class voters.
Earlier this month, Shontel Brown, a moderate who embraced President Biden, won a special election primary for an Ohio congressional seat against Nina Turner, a nationally known surrogate for Senator Bernie Sanders in his presidential races.
The election was the latest in a series of contests this year pitting Democrats’ ideological wings against one another, including New York City, Virginia and Louisiana, and in all cases, the moderates prevailed.
Ms. Harper, 38, canvassed for Ms. Turner in the Cleveland-based special election. She said that contest should not be seen as a forerunner of a statewide Democratic Senate primary in 2022.
“I respect and endorsed Nina Turner, but that race is very different from this one,” she said. Democrats “are losing a lot of people” in Ohio, she added, noting that to win them back, she would run as a candidate “with a track record of standing up to corporate interests.”
A native of Columbus, Ms. Harper was raised by a single mother and earned a master’s degree from Princeton and a law degree from Stanford. She co-founded a group to drive voters to the polls, which this year offered rides to vaccination sites.
She lost her April 2020 primary challenge to Representative Joyce Beatty, now the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Ms. Harper, who was endorsed in the race by Justice Democrats, raised an impressive $858,000 for her race and hoped to follow in the footsteps of left-wing populists like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who knocked out incumbent Democrats.
But Ms. Beatty easily won. This month, she endorsed Mr. Ryan, who at the end of June had $2.6 million on hand for his Senate race. “I’ve seen firsthand how he shows up every day to fight for working people,” Ms. Beatty said in a statement.