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Rob Portman Will Not Seek Re-Election In 2022

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio)
Andy Chow

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has announced he will not be seeking re-election in 2022, putting his seat up for grabs in the perennial battleground state.

Portman says the country is becoming increasingly polarized where officials are being forced to move farther to the right and left politically.

"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 Monday morning in Cincinnati.

Portman has served in the U.S. Senate since 2011. Along with winning re-election in 2016 against former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Portman was also on the short list as a possible running mate for Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

Portman's terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993-2005 came in between serving in the White House for President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush.

Rob Secaur, Ohio Republican Party executive director, says Portman had a reputation of being a statesman who was deliberate with his decisions.

"I think there is a tendency to be knee jerk to a lot of the stuff. And I always appreciate the fact that Rob would wait for the facts, wait for things to play out a little bit before making this decision. I always found him to be a principled leader, but part of the principle was to hear all those things out and to weigh the pros and cons of every issue," says Secaur.

Portman gained a reputation for being a potential swing vote in close Senate debates, such as voting against a total repeal of the Affordable Care Act in July 2017. 

But Democrats disagree with labeling Portman as a moderate, pointing to his other votes to repeal and replace the ACA, voting against expanding background checks for gun sales in 2013 and confirming President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominations.

"I think Rob Portman was very good at convincing folks that he was some sort of sensible, moderate swing vote in the Senate when really he was far from that," says Michael McGovern, managing director for Progress Ohio. "For years we've seen him really just go along with whatever Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump needed in a given moment."

Portman will remain in office for his final two years, which includes participating in Trump's impeachment trial.

When asked if Portman's announcements signals a possible decision to convict in that trial, the senator's staff noted a statement Portman made on January 13 stating, "I will do my duty as a juror and listen to the cases presented by both sides."

The announcement sparked wide speculation as to who might run for the open Senate seat in 2022. McGovern says the Democrats have a deep bench with many progressive candidates with a shot at winning that race.

Meanwhile, Secaur says "I think the Democrats would be dreaming if they thought they could flip this Senate seat in '22."

Secaur noted many Republicans are in the process of thinking about a possible run, which could include Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken.

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