Portman won’t seek reelection in 2022

CINCINNATI — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said Monday that he won’t seek reelection to a third term in 2022, expressing dismay with the deep partisanship and dysfunction in American politics.

Portman, an establishment Republican who served in the House and in President George W. Bush’s administration before joining the Senate, cited a political climate that has made it “harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress.”

“Our country is very polarized,” Portman said, adding that former President Donald Trump did not help with the polarization. “It’s shirts and skins right now. We need to tone it down.”

The decision is one measure of the difficult politics facing many Republicans in Washington as they cede power in President Joe Biden’s administration and watch their party split between hard-right Trump supporters and others eager to turn the page.

Portman, who turned 65 last month, is among the longtime Republican lawmakers who often backed Trump, though not vociferously. Once dubbed “The Loyal Soldier” in a front-page profile story in his hometown Cincinnati Enquirer, Portman usually defended Trump or avoided criticism of him with carefully worded statements. After Trump called the presidential election rigged, citing no legitimate evidence, Portman said Trump had a right to a probe of any irregularities.

But immediately after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob of Trump backers, Portman said Trump needed to go on national TV to tell his supporters to refrain from violence.

“Both in his words before the attack on the Capitol and in his actions afterward, President Trump bears some responsibility for what happened,” Portman said.

Portman’s announcement came the same day that the U.S. Senate is receiving the House impeachment article against Trump for his role in the Capitol riot. While some Republican senators have criticized going ahead with the trial with Trump out of office, Portman said last week that he would listen to the evidence presented by both sides before deciding how to vote.

His retirement adds another open seat for the GOP to defend in 2022 as it seeks to regain control of a Senate that Democrats hold by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris being the tiebreaking vote. Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania have said they plan to retire.

Republicans have 20 seats up for reelection in 2022, compared to 14 for Democrats. Those GOP seats include presidential battlegrounds Wisconsin and Florida.

Ohio, a perennial battleground for decades, has become more reliably Republican, carried by Trump by more than 8 percentage points in 2016 and 2020. But Portman, like many mainstream GOP lawmakers viewed as insufficiently supportive of Trump, was considered likely to face a primary challenge from the right.

Portman twice won election to the Senate by landslide margins. Still, his departure offers a glimmer of hope for Democrats in the state. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown was reelected in 2018, but most other statewide officials are Republican.

Ohio Democratic Party Chair Liz Walters said Portman should take “a long hard look in the mirror” before complaining about partisan gridlock and the end of civility in Washington.

“Over the past four years, Rob Portman has been one of Donald Trump’s biggest defenders, so his attempt today to rewrite that history is ridiculous,” she said in a statement.

Portman’s first federal government job started in 1989, when he served as an associate legal counsel in the George H.W. Bush White House. Portman considered Bush a mentor, one whose genteel style was far from that of the abrasive Trump and some of his Republican supporters in Washington

Portman was elected to Congress from southern Ohio in a 1993 special election and won six more elections before President George W. Bush tapped him to serve as U.S. trade representative in 2005. He traveled the globe, negotiating dozens of trade agreements. Bush then nominated him to be White House budget director in 2006.

Portman stepped down in 2007, then returned to politics in 2010 with a successful U.S. Senate run, and won again in 2016, both times by landslide margins.

Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken said in a statement after Portman’s announcement that his service has been “invaluable.”

Generally voting with his party, Portman broke ranks in 2013 to announce his support for same-sex marriage. He said his son Will had come out as gay. Portman and his wife, Jane, have three children.

After a long career, Portman said Monday that he was looking forward to spending more time with his family and in his community. He pledged to focus on legislative work in his last two years, working on pandemic relief — he participated in testing of a new vaccine — and issues he’s long been involved with such as fighting drug misuse.


CINCINNATI, OH – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) issued the following statement announcing that he will not seek another six-year term in the United States Senate when his current term expires in 2022:

“I feel fortunate to have been entrusted by the people of Ohio to represent them in the US Senate. Today, I am announcing that I have made a decision not to run again in 2022.

“This doesn’t mean I’m leaving now – I still have two more years in my term and I intend to use that time to get a lot done. I will be the top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and I have a number of oversight projects and legislative initiatives I’m eager to get across the finish line. Over the next two years, I look forward to being able to focus all my energy on legislation and the challenges our country faces rather than on fundraising and campaigning.

“This was not an easy decision because representing the people of Ohio has been an honor. But I’ve been doing this a long time, longer than I ever intended.

“I’ve been in public service for 30 years – in the House of Representatives for 12, in the Executive Branch for about eight years in various roles in four different administrations, and in the Senate for the past 10 years. All this time, our family has kept our home in Ohio, where we raised our kids, and I have commuted back and forth to Washington. Jane and our three children have been 100 percent supportive, but I am really looking forward to being home in Ohio full time, seeing family and friends more, and getting back to the private sector, including being able to be more involved in the community and in our family business. And I plan to stay involved in public policy issues.

“During my service in the Senate, I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for Ohio and the country. I have consistently been named one of the most bipartisan Senators. I am proud of that and I will continue to reach out to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground.

“Eighty-two of my bills were signed into law by President Trump, and 68 were signed into law by President Obama. This includes impactful laws to address the drug addiction crisis like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act that has saved lives by providing billions in new resources for evidence-based prevention, treatment and, for the first time ever, recovery services. It includes laws to confront the horrific crime of human trafficking. Working with trafficking victims, advocates, and law enforcement, my SESTA legislation has allowed victims to seek justice, and closed down websites that were trafficking girls and women online.

“It includes laws to help workers, legislation that before the pandemic helped create one of the strongest economies in a generation, with significant wage growth for working families and the lowest poverty level ever recorded. I took a leadership role on tax reform and tax cuts, workforce training, regulatory relief and permitting reform. They all played a role in creating an opportunity economy and are key to getting us back on track. I have also been a leader on retirement security, technology policy, cybersecurity, trade, energy efficiency, prisoner reentry, National Parks, stopping China from stealing our technology, and more. I have worked constructively with my colleague, Senator Sherrod Brown, on matters that help move Ohio forward.

“I don’t think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision.

“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. This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades.

“This is a tough time to be in public service. For many of the issues I am most passionate about, I will continue to make a difference outside of the Senate, beyond 2022. In the meantime, I am hopeful that President Biden will follow through on his inaugural pledge to reach across the aisle, and I am prepared to work with him and his administration if he does. I was on the bipartisan call yesterday on a new COVID-19 package. I hope the Administration will work with us on a more targeted approach that focuses on things like vaccine distribution, testing and getting kids back to school.

“I want to thank the great people of Ohio for giving me the incredible opportunity to serve, and I look forward to continuing to work hard for them over the next two years. I appreciate my friends in every corner of Ohio and across the political spectrum who encourage me and help me better represent our diverse state. I thank them for what they do for our communities and for the inspiration they give me.

“I want to thank my amazing staff both in Ohio and in DC. They work really hard for the people of Ohio and have enabled me to be so much more effective. I know I am biased, but I really believe they are the best team in the Senate, and others think that, too.

“Of course, I will always be grateful to the voters of Ohio who have supported me in nine elections to the House and Senate. Thanks to them, I’ve never lost an election and never won by less than 18 points. I am confident that with their support I could have won again but, for me, the question was whether I wanted to serve an additional six years in the Senate.

“I decided to make my announcement now because I have made up my mind, but also because it will allow whichever Republicans who choose to run plenty of time to gear up for a statewide race.

“Finally, and most importantly, a special thanks to Jane and our family for the unconditional support and for the sacrifices they have made — and will continue to make for the next two years. I appreciate Jane, Jed, Sara and Sally for being here today and for the well wishes from Will and Tyler who weren’t able to travel to Cincinnati this morning. We are a team.

“In these next two years, I will continue to be actively engaged, doing my best to provide hope as we try to get through the devastating coronavirus pandemic and doing my best to help bring our great country together, to help us heal, so we address the many challenges we face together.”

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Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, questions Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Jan. 19. On Monday, Portman announced he wouldn’t run for reelection in 2022.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/01/web1_AP21019646429124-4.jpgSen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, questions Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Jan. 19. On Monday, Portman announced he wouldn’t run for reelection in 2022. Joshua Roberts | Pool via AP

By Dan Sewell

Associated Press