Portman planned exit sets off Ohio free-for-all

Portman planned exit sets off Ohio free-for-all

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanKerry Washington backs For the People Act: 'Black and Brown voters are being specifically targeted' This week: Democrats face fractures in spending fight UK appeals to Congress in push for trade deal MORE's (R-Ohio) announcement on Monday that he won't seek reelection next year is shaking up Ohio politics and quickly prompting other members of the state's congressional delegation to express interest in running for the open seat.

Within a few hours of Portman’s announcement, four House Republicans — Reps. Mike TurnerMichael Ray TurnerJ.D. Vance emerges as wild card in Ohio GOP Senate primary Senate Armed Services chair throws support behind changing roles of military commanders in sexual assault prosecutions Gillibrand: 'I definitely want to run for president again' MORE, Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversNew Mexico Democrat Stansbury sworn into Haaland's old seat Retired GOP representative: I won't miss the circus, but I might miss some of the clowns The Hill's Morning Report - Census winners and losers; House GOP huddles MORE, David JoyceDavid JoycePorter urges increased budget for children's National Parks program Against mounting odds, Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan Boehner finally calls it as he sees it MORE and Brad WenstrupBrad Robert WenstrupWhite House pressed on evacuating Afghan allies as time runs out FBI reclassifies 2017 baseball field shooting as domestic terror Scalise demands FBI reopen probe into 2017 baseball shooting MORE — indicated that they are considering running for the now-open seat.

And on the Democratic side, Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanJ.D. Vance emerges as wild card in Ohio GOP Senate primary 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 Biden faces dilemma on Trump steel tariffs MORE said that he hadn’t made a decision yet but is “looking seriously at it” after being “overwhelmed” by supporters encouraging him to run for Senate. 


Another Democratic member of Ohio’s House delegation, Rep. Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyAdvocates warn against complacency after Chauvin verdict Democrats demand Biden administration reopen probe into Tamir Rice's death DOJ to probe Minneapolis police MORE, said she has “not made any decisions on next steps.” If Beatty chose to run, she’d be angling to become Ohio’s first Black senator. 

Still others in the Ohio political establishment or the state’s 16-member House delegation could be in the mix, setting up the possibility of a crowded GOP primary. Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanThe tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Sunday shows preview: Biden foreign policy in focus as Dem tensions boil up back home House Judiciary releases McGahn testimony on Trump MORE, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and a prominent ally of former President TrumpDonald TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations MORE, could also be a contender.

Stivers, the former chairman of the House GOP campaign arm, is considering a run, according to a source familiar with his thinking.

Turner said in a statement that “as numerous people have reached out to me, I will continue to look to the opportunity where I can best serve our community, state and country,” while Wenstrup said that “over the coming weeks, I look forward to talking with my family, Ohio Republicans, and supporters about how I can best continue to serve our community, our state, and our country.”

Joyce, for his part, said that “there will be plenty of time in the coming weeks for lots of folks, myself among them, to consider their options moving forward, but today is Rob’s day.”

Democrats hold a narrow majority in an evenly split Senate thanks to Vice President Harris’s tie-breaking vote. They already faced a somewhat favorable Senate map in 2022 with no incumbent senators running for reelection in states that Trump won in November but will still be defending 14 seats in their fragile majority.


Republicans, meanwhile, will be defending 20 seats, including two seats in states that President Biden won: Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And all of the three open Senate seats so far are currently held by the GOP.  

Portman is the third swing-state GOP senator to announce he won't be running for reelection in 2022. GOP Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze Burr House Democrats to Schumer: Vote again on Jan. 6 probe Lara Trump lost her best opportunity — if she ever really wanted it Trump touts record, blasts Dems in return to stage MORE (N.C.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (Pa.) are also both retiring.   

While Ohio has long been considered a swing state, it is increasingly trending more favorably for Republicans.  

Trump remains popular in Ohio, where he won by 8 points over Biden in November. And Republicans currently hold all of the statewide offices except for Democratic Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDemocrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' Cryptocurrency industry lobbies Washington for 'regulatory clarity' Biden 'allies' painting him into a corner MORE’s seat.

Portman, a pragmatist and longtime fixture in GOP national politics who will be the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, won reelection handily in 2016 by 21 points. Portman was first elected to the House in 1993 and left in 2005 to serve as U.S. trade representative and later the director of the Office of Management and Budget under then-President George W. Bush.

Portman pointed to legislative gridlock as a factor in his decision to retire.

“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,” Portman said in a statement.

“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,” Portman added.

Members of Ohio’s congressional delegation aren’t the only possible candidates for the Senate. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance are also considered potential contenders on the GOP side.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and former Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper could also be in the mix for the Democratic primary.  

But if any of the names floated on Monday don’t end up running for Senate, there’s still another statewide office up for grabs in 2022. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWineMike DeWineOhio GOP governor comes out against controversial state anti-vaccine bill Overnight Health Care: Biden says US donation of 500 million vaccines will 'supercharge' global virus fight | Moderna asks FDA to clear COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents FDA extends shelf life of J&J vaccine amid concern over expiring doses MORE, a Republican, is up for reelection next year.

Ryan, who has served in the House since 2003, has passed on statewide campaigns before. He previously ran for president in the 2020 cycle but dropped out in October 2019 after his campaign failed to gain traction in the crowded Democratic primary.

More recently, Ryan has been leading efforts to investigate the security failures during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol as the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the Capitol Police.

But a statewide run may hold more appeal for Ryan this time given that Ohio is expected to lose a House seat in 2022 and his district has become increasingly less Democratic.

Former President Obama won Ryan’s district by 27.5 points in 2012, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNSA leaker Reality Winner released from federal prison Monica Lewinsky signs production deal with 20th TV Police investigating death of TV anchor who uncovered Clinton tarmac meeting as suicide MORE won by 6.5 points in 2016 and Biden won by about 3 points in November.

While Ryan has not yet decided on whether to launch a Senate campaign, he still made an effort to fundraise off of Portman's announcement on Monday and asked supporters to “chip in today to fund our early ground game.”

“Ohio will be the center of the political map in 2022,” the fundraising email stated. “Make no mistake, this is a must-win seat for Democrats if we’re going to hold the Senate in 2022!”

Al Weaver contributed.