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- U.S. Representative from Ohio
LANCASTER — Although he only expects to be working another five years, Shawn Shonk is concerned for his colleagues' futures, regarding unions, benefits and protections.
The Lancaster resident said he's looking for a politician to "make good" on their campaign promises once elected, which he told to US Congressman Tim Ryan after Shonk finished a shift Wednesday at the Anchor Hocking Company in Lancaster.
Ryan made two stops in Lancaster after a visit to McWane Ductile in Coshocton. He stopped at Babcock & Wilcox-Diamond Power before going to greet Anchor Hocking employees.
Ryan is one of four Democratic candidates running for the nomination in the US Senate primary this spring. Incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R) announced in early 2021 he wouldn't run for re-election, sparking a rush of candidates throwing their names in the ring. There are 14 Republican candidates, and five independent declared candidates also vying for the spot.
Shonk said too many candidates have made promises on the campaign trail, then they haven't followed through with them.
"And there's just too much fighting between both sides of the aisle, it really doesn't feel like they're actually doing what's right for the citizens that put them in the office to begin with," he said. "We need people that are willing to step up and help the lower- and middle-classes, because it's extremely tough for everyone, even before the (coronavirus pandemic) started."
Shonk added he's hopeful there will be a drive for more industry jobs to come back to Ohio, something that Ryan has pushed during his campaign.
"We can't just have people sitting at desks, we need to diversify the jobs, have people in brick and mortar stores, working with their hands," he said. "I hope whoever is elected can bring jobs to the state, and help the unions and workers get the benefits they need, because it is tough out there."
Ryan said the trips to Diamond Power and Anchor Hocking, as well as McWane Ductile, were important to provide a perspective of who is actually working in the state.
"It's amazing to see what people do at these jobs, especially if you don't have any idea what's done in a factory, beyond the end product they make. You get to see the intricate details, the nitty-gritty of the processes they have to master to work at these plants and factories," Ryan said. "That was one problem the pandemic has highlighted, and it's been a major problem for several years: the lack of appreciation for these workers."
"Who is to say they aren't serving an essential purpose when they're the ones working. We saw essential workers all throughout the pandemic, and we need to get them the compensation they deserve."
A few of the Anchor Hocking employees asked Ryan questions as they walked back to their cars, from his party affiliation to vaccination mandates. He took the time to answer them and urged them to consider voting for him.
"I've got good responses from the employees during visits like these, regardless of which party they support. They want politicians to focus on the issues that matter to them, that directly impact them," Ryan said. "There's been a level of frustration from a lot of blue-collar jobs because it might feel like they're getting looked down on, especially when lots of those jobs were shipped overseas, and nothing was provided to replace those roles over the years."
"And I feel like they know I understand that issue, especially since the Mahoning Valley has felt those same pains."
Ryan said he hopes to assist companies with smaller plants to continue to grow and focus on sustainable technology for the future. The state would benefit as a whole, and cities with renewed manufacturing could enjoy more revenue.
"The technology we saw at Diamond Power is a good example of technology for the future. I'm committed to helping more companies work on projects like that, finding them the avenues they need to continue it and to expand their business," Ryan said.
Barrett Lawlis is a news reporter for the Lancaster Eagle Gazette. Contact him at 740-681-4342 or send him story ideas at BLAWLIS@Gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @BarrettLawlis
This article originally appeared on Lancaster Eagle-Gazette: Senate Primary Hopeful Tim Ryan visits Lancaster industries