Congressman Tim Ryan preparing for Democratic presidential debate

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Congressman Tim Ryan will take the stage Wednesday in Miami, Florida

(WKBN) – The first Democratic presidential debates will be Wednesday and Thursday. Twenty candidates will be given a chance to convince voters that they should replace President Donald Trump.

On the debate stage Wednesday will be Youngstown-area Congressman Tim Ryan.

Congressman Ryan is already in South Florida, where his staff is running him through debate preparations. But he took a break Tuesday afternoon at the Bonita Springs, Florida Handel’s Ice Cream location.

Ryan started his campaign in downtown Youngstown on April 6. Since then, he has been campaigning in states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — sites of some of the early primaries.

He said he wants people to know where he’s from.

“I think saying I’m from the Mahoning Valley and Northeast Ohio, I think gives everybody a picture that we’re one of the forgotten communities and there are a lot of other forgotten around the country…I know the challenges of deindustrialization, the opiate crisis, mental health crisis. All of these things that we’re dealing with across the country, we’re really the epicenter of all of that stuff.”

From the time he announced his candidacy, Ryan said his priority is helping the middle class. He plans to make that clear in Wednesday night’s debate.

“I want people to know that I’m the guy that wants us to start building stuff in the United States again. Maybe not the old-school manufacturing. Maybe electric vehicles, and batteries, and solar panels and wind turbines.”

Ryan has made appearances on most of the major networks. He hopes a good showing Wednesday night will give him a bump in the polls to help him raise some money.

“With 20-some people in the race, it’s not about jumping to first place. It’s about getting into that top tier and having a shot to win at the end.”

Part of his preparation has been getting his answers down to a minute because that’s all the time each candidate will have Wednesday night.

Ryan said he’s excited, but nervous.

“I get butterflies every now and again, you know. It’s like a big game. But I’m really excited. I’m honored to have the opportunity to represent our area.”

The Congressman did treat himself while at Handel’s. He had a double scoop of Graham Central Station but he said Chocolate Cake Batter is his favorite.

If you’d like to watch the debates, there will be two watch parties here at home.

On Wednesday, the Trumbull County Democratic Party will hold its watch party at its headquarters in the Pinetree Plaza in Niles at 36 Youngstown Warren Rd. The event begins at 8 p.m.

On Thursday, the Mahoning County Young Democrats and ProgressMV will hold another watch party at Rhine Haus Bier Hall at 40 N. Phelps St. in Youngstown. That begins at 8:30 p.m.

Admission is free and open to everyone.

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