Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s announcement that he would forgo re-election sent shockwaves throughout Ohio political spheres on Monday, with reaction ranging from unsurprised to, in the case of Democrats, gleeful.
Bob Paduchik, who oversaw President Donald Trump’s campaign in Ohio, posted on Twitter Monday that he wasn’t surprised to see Portman bow out from a re-election campaign and that he expects “a lot of interest in this open seat.”
Portman “helped pass the Trump tax cuts and the First Step Act, he got big things done! DC politics today just doesn’t fit for Portman. Proud to have run his first race,” Paduchik wrote.
Portman has been a punching bag for Democrats who were fond of saying that he didn’t do enough over the last four years to stand up to President Donald Trump. On Monday, Democratic operatives celebrated Portman’s decision.
Newly chosen Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Liz Walters said the race was always going to be competitive but Portman’s news makes it more so.
“Get that popcorn ready to watch the R primary fireworks,” she wrote on Twitter.
In a prepared statement from the Ohio Democratic Party, Walters ripped Portman’s tenure in the Senate.
“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,” she said. “The truth is, Portman is looking at the same data we are – the Ohio Senate seat was going to be a hard road for him, after he backed failed policies like the Trump tax scam and the Affordable Care Act repeal. In 2022 Ohioans want to send someone to the U.S. Senate who fights for them, not for special interests.”
Here is how others reacted to news of Portman’s decision:
Jane Timken, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken called Portman “a statesman” whose service over three decades has been invaluable.
“His leadership and temperament will be missed in the halls of the U.S. Senate and amongst Ohio Republicans,” Timken said in a statement. “While we have huge shoes to fill in the U.S. Senate, I thank Sen. Portman for his service and hope all Ohioans will join me in recognizing his accomplishments that furthered our great state.”
Gov. Mike DeWine
Gov. Mike DeWine lauded Portman’s work during his two terms in the U.S. Senate and praised his help responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” DeWine said in a prepared statement.
Asked about Portman’s decision at a Monday press conference, DeWine said Ohio needs a senator “like Sen. Portman, who has a great love for Ohio and someone who has an understanding of Ohio and someone who will roll up their sleeves every single day to make a difference for Ohio and the people of Ohio.”
“Rob Portman has done an absolutely phenomenal job,” DeWine said, citing, in particular, Portman’s leading role in combatting the opioid epidemic and drug abuse.
“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve talked to Sen. Portman many, many times … he has been there for us, he’s been a go-to person,” DeWine said.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown
Portman’s U.S. Senate colleague, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, said in a written statement that the two have worked together on several occasions to try to improve Ohio.
“Rob and I have worked together on issues that matter to Ohioans, from protecting the health of Lake Erie, to better enforcing our trade laws, to helping Ohioans who are struggling with addiction. We’ve not always agreed with one another, but we’ve always been able to put our differences aside to do what’s best for our state. Connie and I thank Rob for his career of public service and wish him and Jane well,” he said in the prepared statement.
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called Portman’s impending retirement “a big loss for the entire Senate.
“For a decade, our colleague from Ohio has been one of the most expert, most effective Senators on either side of the aisle. His mastery of policy, experience across branches of government, friendly disposition, and relentless focus on results have made him a powerful force for good and a champion for Ohioans under presidential administrations of both parties,” he said in a prepared statement. “Both the Republican conference and the institution as a whole will be worse off when Rob departs. Fortunately, in the meantime, we have two more years to continue drawing on his knowledge, his principles, and his dedication as we keep fighting for American families.”
U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Columbia Tusculum
U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Columbia Tusculum, praised Portman’s work on the opioid crisis and “a champion for decency and respect.”
“Rob has always been helpful to me in navigating the intricacies of serving in Congress as well as being available for advice, consultation, and debate. Monica and I are among the many blessed to call Rob and Jane friends,” Wenstrup said in a written statement. “Throughout my life, I have been called to public service – as a doctor, as a soldier, and as a congressman. 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.”
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Toledo Democrat, said that Portman served “honorably” during his time in the Senate and called his retirement a “deep loss” on issues related to the Great Lakes.
“He has worked on a bicameral basis and across party lines when necessary to find solutions on behalf of our constituents. I have appreciated his deep interest in countering the real threats to liberty globally and his vigilant partnership in maintaining territorial sovereignty among the nations on the European continent. We share a deep commitment to strengthening the transatlantic alliance,” she said in a prepared statement.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the two-term senator “has long been what our founders hoped for in a public servant when they wrote our Constitution.”
Former Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper
On Monday, former Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper, thought in some circles to be a potential statewide candidate in 2022, speculated that Portman’s decision came down to a possible difficult primary.
“So much to learn about how far you fall when you lack courage in politics. Let’s hope he does the right thing now,” Pepper wrote in a tweet.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election and exploring a statewide run, said she was surprised by Portman’s announcement.
“We’re making decisions about statewide office and will continue to make those decisions,” she said in an interview.
“One of my challenges with Sen. Portman is he has always wanted to have it both ways. The issue overall with Ohio Republicans has been they kowtow to Trump and then pretend they are different … Their party is having an existential crisis with people like Mike DeWine and Rob Portman,” Whaley said.
Rick Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
NRSC Chairman Rick Scott celebrated Portman’s tenure in Washington, D.C. in a prepared statement, lauding his work on economic issues, the opioid epidemic and tax reform.
“Rob is an invaluable member of the Senate Republican conference, and he will be greatly missed by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. We are all grateful for his decades of service to our nation,” Scott said.
“The 2022 election in Ohio starts today and Republicans will hold that seat. The NRSC will fight tirelessly in Ohio to ensure Senator Portman’s successor supports a pro-growth, pro-family, pro-Ohio agenda – not the Radical Left’s agenda of higher taxes, bigger government, open borders and a weakened America.”