Tim Ryan Celebrates Endorsement From Republican Who Worked for Obama

John Bridgeland worked on Obama White House council, cheered Biden victory

John Bridgeland / Getty Images
August 17, 2022

On the campaign trail, Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) touts the endorsement of a man named John Bridgeland as evidence of his cross-party appeal.

There are just a few details the congressman leaves out, at least when he's trying to win over voters in his increasingly red state: Bridgeland worked in the Obama administration, celebrated President Joe Biden's election, and cofounded a nonprofit dedicated to remaking policing.

The founder of "Republicans for Tim Ryan," Bridgeland has worked on left-wing policy initiatives for years. Former president Barack Obama in 2010 appointed Bridgeland to the White House Council for Community Solutions. Bridgeland also cofounded a firm, COVID Collaborative, that works with the Biden administration on vaccine messaging. In December 2020, Bridgeland wrote an op-ed for the website of Maria Shriver, a Democratic activist and member of the Kennedy family, about how he was "so encouraged" by Biden's win.

Democrats touting endorsements from nominal Republicans who routinely attack the Republican Party is a familiar strategy. Lawmakers who have been rubber stamps for Biden's agenda, such as Ryan, are hoping that voters forget their records. Sen. Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.), who is running in a competitive race this cycle, recently released a list of endorsements from Republicans, several of whom work for the the Lincoln Project, an activist group dedicated to electing Democrats but helmed by individuals who once considered themselves Republicans. 

Bridgeland's endorsement comes as Ryan seeks to separate himself from the president. Biden's approval rating is 23 points underwater in Ohio—a state that former president Donald Trump won twice. When Biden traveled to Ohio for a speech last month, Ryan scheduled campaign stops hundreds of miles away.

Ryan shared Bridgeland's endorsement on Twitter and wrote he was "proud" to have Bridgeland on his "team."

"Republicans for Ryan is a platform for Republicans to sign up to help Tim Ryan. I am a registered Republican and vote in Republican primaries and in general elections," Bridgeland told the Free Beacon. "I believe in limited, effective government, … civil society and the nonprofit and private sectors, and respecting both individual rights and responsibilities."

Bridgeland worked from the mid-1990s to 2003 as a senior official in then-representative Rob Portman's (R., Ohio) office and in former president George W. Bush's administration. In an op-ed for a local Ohio newspaper, Bridgeland wrote that he supports Ryan's "love of our democracy" and "many of his policies."

Bridgeland attacked Ryan's Republican Senate challenger, J.D. Vance, as "lacking the energy of the U.S. senator he is trying to replace—Rob Portman." Portman endorsed Vance immediately after Vance in May won the Republican nomination.

Bridgeland's endorsement of Ryan was leaked to Politico days prior as part of a story about the Ryan campaign's strategy of appealing to Republican voters. That story also featured Bridgeland speaking favorably about Ryan and how Ryan could make inroads with Republican voters in Ohio. Missing from Politico's story was any mention of Bridgeland's work since he left the Bush administration in 2003.

Ryan did not respond to a request for comment.

Other than Bridgeland, no appointees with experience in Republican politics were appointed to Obama's White House community solutions council. There, Bridgeland worked alongside the likes of Laurene Powell Jobs and Jon Bon Jovi to provide advice to the president on "innovative community solutions and civic participation by all Americans."

Bridgeland later cofounded ACT NOW, a nonprofit that works "to reimagine 'public safety' … and eliminate the root causes of systemic racism." ACT NOW's staff includes Ray C. Kelly, who in 2018 received an award from George Soros's Open Society Institute-Baltimore.

According to internal voter data obtained by the Free Beacon, Bridgeland voted in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. A June column he wrote for the Cincinnati Enquirer called for new gun control measures. The column also touted his work with a group called the People's Filibuster for Gun Safety. That group, according to its website, partners with left-wing nonprofits such as the Anti-Defamation League and March for Our Lives to pass gun-control legislation.

Bridgeland's cheerleading for Biden appears out of step with Republican voters. Following Biden's State of the Union address in March, Bridgeland celebrated the speech as passionate and "articulating values and ideas that transcend our divisions." A Reuters poll released Aug. 9 found 86 percent of self-identified Republicans disapprove of Biden.

Ryan will face Vance in November. There is little high-quality polling of the race available, although most political analysts believe Vance is the favorite. Portman's seat has been held by a Republican since 1999.