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SPRINGDALE, Ohio (AP) — House Speaker Paul Ryan touted the federal tax overhaul Thursday during a visit to a grocery chain’s plant with an Ohio Republican who is facing a spirited Democratic challenge in November.

Officials of Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. said tax cuts have enabled the company to increase tuition assistance for employees along with other benefits ranging from higher company contributions to their retirement plans to expanded employee discounts.

“This is what we were thinking about when we passed tax reform,” Ryan told workers at Kroger’s Springdale ice cream and beverage plant, referring to the increased benefits. He toured the plant with veteran GOP Rep. Steve Chabot, who is running for a 12th term in the traditionally Republican 1st District. Democrats are hopeful about their nominee, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, fresh off an upset victory in 2016 for the county job. Chabot lost his seat while Democrat Barack Obama carried Ohio in 2008, but won it back in 2010.

Ryan praised Chabot for promoting business growth, saying he’s well-positioned to do so as chairman of the House Small Business Committee.

Kroger employee Jamie Trentman, among some three dozen Kroger employees gathered for a town-hall format in the plant’s break room, grew tearful as she asked what will be done to protect her son Trey, who has joined the Air Force, and help him transition into a job after his service. Ryan replied that the hike in military spending passed this year will give him better equipment and provide training for a future career.

Pureval, meanwhile, said he’d like to meet Chabot in a town hall on “the Ryan-Chabot” tax overhaul.

“If Mr. Chabot truly believes it was good for the people, let’s debate,” Pureval said in a statement.

Ryan, who’s not running for re-election in Wisconsin, also is fundraising in Ohio for House Republicans. Jacob Peters, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, said Ryan’s visit shows that some GOP-held Ohio seats are vulnerable.


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