Politics

The race for Rob Portman’s Senate seat begins

Republican Senator Rob Portman, in hopes of giving Republicans who want to replace him “plenty of time to gear up,” announced his decision not to run for re-election on Monday. Within hours, politicians of both parties began to signal their interest in the 2022 race for his seat.

Highest on the list of people to watch is Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, a close ally of former President Trump. Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell soon tweeted his support for Jordan. 

“I sure hope Jim Jordan is ready to answer the call,” Blackwell said. 

Jordan isn’t ruling out a bid for Portman’s seat, telling NewsMax TV, “We’ll see. I’m focused on my work on the Judiciary Committee…and this crazy impeachment trial.”

But other Republicans in Ohio’s congressional delegation may be contemplating a run, too. Jordan’s House colleague, Representative Mike Turner, said in a statement that he would “continue to look to the opportunity where I can best serve our community, state and country.” Turner said that for now, his focus is on his constituents. 

Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup issued a statement saying that he has “been called to public service” throughout his life and would discuss his political future with family and colleagues. Republican Congressman Steve Stivers is also considering running for the Senate seat, according to someone familiar with his thinking. 

One other name making the rounds in Ohio politics is former Republican congressman Pat Tiberi. In a statement thanking Portman for his work, he said, “there will be a time and place to discuss his successor, but that day is not today.”

Josh Mandel, a former Ohio state treasurer, said in a statement that he would “very seriously” consider a Senate run. In 2012, Mandel lost a Senate bid to incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. Other  statewide Republican politicians, including Attorney General Dave Yost, are also mulling a potential run. In a statement, Yost thanked Portman for serving Ohio, and then added that he “will continue to consider how I can best serve all Ohioans moving forward, just as I always have.”

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the Republican charged with overseeing Ohio’s elections, frequently touted the state’s election infrastructure, citing his office’s work to recruit poll workers and Ohio’s ability to process mail-in ballots. 

LaRose spokesman Jon Keeling said,  “He’s coming off running the most successful election in state history under the most challenging of circumstances. The filing deadline is still a year away and Secretary LaRose’s focus right now is on finding ways to improve upon Ohio’s success so we can continue to thrive as a national model long into the future.”

Ohio was considered a battleground state as recently as 2016, but Republicans have dominated most statewide elections over the past four years. Mr. Trump won the state by 8 points in 2020, and Republicans control all of the statewide elected offices except one.

Portman won his last race in 2016 by more than 20 points when he defeated former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. Cook Political Report rated the Ohio Senate contest “solid Republican” when Portman was on the ticket, but it has now edged the race a little toward Democrats, now rating it “lean Republican.”

Despite Republican strength in the Buckeye State, Brown easily held onto his seat in 2018, suggesting that  a Democrat might be able to flip the seat if there’s a candidate with the right message. 

In the statement announcing his decision not to run again, Portman lamented the  “partisan gridlock” that hampers Congress.

“We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground,” Portman said in his statement. 

Among Democrats, Ohio Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, a former 2020 presidential candidate, confirmed on Twitter that he is “looking seriously” at the prospect of running for Senate. “Ohio deserves leaders who fight for working people,” Ryan said.

Democrat Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator and campaign co-chair for Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential run, took her name out of the running on Monday. She is currently running for the open House seat left open by Democratic Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, who is President Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. 

Turner’s campaign manager Liz Sherey said she had received “a number of calls” urging her to run for Senate, but said Turner “is singularly focused on the 11th Congressional District.”

After Portman voted to support then-Judge Amy Coney Barrett to become a Supreme Court justice, Ohio Democrats launched a fundraising campaign to support whoever Portman’s Democratic opponent will be. One possibility is Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who announced earlier this month that she would not run for reelection. Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor may also consider a run. He told CBS News he is “still digesting” Portman’s decision.


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