Ohio Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan speaks at June 2019 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
CNN  — 

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan launched his Senate campaign on Monday, betting that the state that turned red in the Trump era can return to the Democratic party in 2022.

Ryan, a Democrat who has represented the Youngstown area since 2003 and mounted a long-shot 2020 presidential bid, is closely aligned with organized labor and often touts his blue collar roots in the Mahoning Valley.

In an interview, Ryan made the case that Democrats can still win in Ohio.

“My experience has been just focusing on the workers, their families, the issues that are important to them, recognizing how hard they are working and still not getting by and getting ahead,” Ryan told CNN. “That is what people are going to vote for.”

“They don’t care what political party you are with,” he added. “They want to know who you are for.”

Ryan said that his constituents are “working harder than ever before, doing everything right and still can’t get ahead” and that is why he plans to “focus like a laser beam on workers” during his Senate run. He says that includes touting the Covid relief bill and pushing infrastructure reform, two early priorities for President Joe Biden’s administration.

Ryan has received encouragement from national and local leaders to enter the race, including from Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, and Ohio State Conference of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

In the past three election cycles, Republicans won statewide races in Ohio for president, governor and Senate. Donald Trump beat then-Democratic presidential candidate Biden there by 8 points in November. But Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown’s 2018 reelection victory gave the Democratic Party hope that its populist wing could still resonate in Ohio.

Key to any Democratic bid will be the Republican who wins the party’s primary. GOP Sen. Rob Portman’s decision to retire in 2022 has led to a brutal race between Josh Mandel, the former state treasurer and three-time Senate candidate, Jane Timken, the former Ohio Republican Party chair, and businessmen Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno. Other Republicans, including “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance and Rep. Michael Turner, may also run.

Ryan has a relatively clear field in the Democratic primary. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley chose to run for governor and Dr. Amy Acton, who rose to prominence as Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s public health director during the coronavirus pandemic, declined to run for Senate. Other potential Senate Democratic candidates include Emilia Sykes, the young, Black minority leader of the Ohio House of Representatives, who could mount a historic campaign and motivate the party’s base.

“One thing that we have an opportunity to do is show that with diverse candidates, with women and people of color, there is a pathway to win,” Sykes has told CNN. “What we are learning is that when you put women on the ballot, women win. When you put people of color on the ballot, we win.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.