Ohio Republican Rob Portman won’t seek re-election to U.S. Senate

Cincinnati Republican Rob Portman announced Monday that he won’t seek re-election to a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022.

Portman, 65, was first elected to the post in 2010 and re-elected in 2016, defeating former governor Ted Strickland.

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Portman said in a statement that he will use his remaining two years in office to focus on legislation rather than on fundraising and campaigning.

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

Portman has been in public service for 30 years, having also served in the U.S. House and as budget director and U.S. trade representative for President George W. Bush’s administration.

It’s a tough time to be in politics, Portman said in his 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,” he said. “This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades.”

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Portman would have been a likely favorite to win a third term. He has $4.65 million in his campaign account and a track record of winning elections going back to his first bid for U.S. House in 1993.

Portman is known as a courteous, cautious politician.

“During my service in the Senate, I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for Ohio and the country,” he said in his statement. “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.”

He withdrew his endorsement for Donald Trump in October 2016 after release of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged of sexual conquests and used crude terms.

In early 2019, Portman endorsed Trump for re-election. And in early 2020, Portman said Trump’s actions were inappropriate but he opposed impeachment, saying the process was flawed.

Stepping away from politics and a re-election campaign may free Portman to vote to convict Trump in his second impeachment, political observers said.

“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. This is the guy who, when asked about Trump’s decision to attack peaceful protesters with tear gas, said he was ‘late for lunch.’ This is the guy who backed Mitch McConnell’s theft of a Supreme Court seat from President Barack Obama,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairwoman Liz Walters in a written statement. “If Portman wants to complain about the death of civility and the triumph of partisan gridlock, he should take a long, hard look in the mirror and think about what he wants to be his legacy.”

Walters added that polling data shows Portman faced a competitive race in 2022.

Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said in a written statement: “Sen. Portman has been a key partner on helping Ohio with federal COVID-19 relief and other pandemic-related issues. Sen. Portman and I have had similar policy priorities to help Ohio families, from tackling the Opioid crisis and the scourge of human trafficking to protecting Lake Erie and Ohio’s other natural wonders. Fran and I wish Rob and Jane and their family the best in their future endeavors.”

Rob Portman

Age: 65

Family: Portman and his wife, Jane, have three grown children

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Dartmouth College; law degree, University of Michigan

Party: Republican

Experience: 1988, attorney for President George H.W. Bush; 1993-2005, U.S. House; 2005-06, U.S. trade representative; 2006-07, White House budget director; 2010-current, U.S. Senate