Portman planned exit sets off Ohio free-for-all

Portman planned exit sets off Ohio free-for-all thumbnail

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden’s crisis agenda hits headwinds Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden takes office, calls for end to ‘uncivil war’ 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 TurnerOvernight Defense: Mike Rogers slated to be top House Armed Services Republican | Defense bill hits another snag | Pentagon dinged for 0M loan to trucking company using COVID funds Mike Rogers set to serve as top House Armed Services Republican Democratic lawmakers lambast Trump over Esper firing as GOP remains mum MORE, Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversRomney: Total figure for Biden coronavirus stimulus is ‘pretty shocking’ GOP lawmaker says he’d OK ,400 stimulus checks for people who receive COVID-19 vaccine The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump finally concedes; 25th Amendment pressure grows MORE, David JoyceDavid JoyceHouse Republicans who didn’t sign onto the Texas lawsuit Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety Stand-alone bill to provide relief for airlines blocked on House floor MORE and Brad WenstrupBrad Robert WenstrupOvernight Health Care — Fauci: Lack of facts ‘likely’ cost lives in coronavirus fight | CDC changes COVID-19 vaccine guidance to allow rare mixing of Pfizer, Moderna shots | Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden’s agenda Trump, Biden battle over rush for COVID-19 vaccine The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden asks if public can trust vaccine from Trump ahead of Election Day | Oklahoma health officials raised red flags before Trump rally MORE — indicated that they are considering running for the now-open seat.

And on the Democratic side, Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanJill Biden visits Capitol to thank National Guard Capitol officer claims MAGA hat was part of ruse to rescue colleagues: report Tim Ryan, Rosa DeLauro giving free coffee and donuts to National Guard stationed at Capitol 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. 

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 JordanBiden’s inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day McCarthy won’t back effort to oust Cheney MORE, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and a prominent ally of former President TrumpDonald TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden’s coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico’s president tests positive for COVID-19 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 BurrOn The Money: Biden extends eviction moratorium, student loan forbearance | Stocks hit record highs on Biden’s first day as president | Justice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr The Hill’s Morning Report – President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today Justice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr without charges MORE (N.C.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGovernment used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Appeals court rules NSA’s bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel 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 BrownSenators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury Senate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack 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 DeWineRepublicans eye primaries in impeachment vote Shellshocked GOP ponders future with Trump Governors respond to violence at Capitol 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 ClintonBiden must wait weekend for State Department pick Texas Supreme Court rejects Alex Jones request to toss lawsuits from Sandy Hook parents Paris Agreement: Biden’s chance to restore international standing 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. 

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