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Portman Talks Legacy, Shares Thoughts On Future Of Republican Party

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

U.S. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) says he will not be seeking another term in the Senate, capping off at least for now, a public service career that spans three decades.

Before being elected senator in 2010, Portman was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and served in two White House administrations.

In a one-on-one interview, Portman was asked what he believes his legacy in public service will be and what he'll be remembered for.

"I'm kind of old fashioned, I think that my job is to write laws and provide oversight and, you know, I don't do a lot of this, you know, the talk shows and the cable news and that sort of thing, because that tends to pretty quickly devolve into a partisan food fight. And that's not what I think, you know, I was elected to do. So I know some consider it boring to some consider it not very exciting stuff," Portman said.

The senator continued by saying he wanted to spend his time focusing on legislation.

"Policy issues that we have focused on, like the opioid crisis, like human trafficking, like worker retraining, where we've taken a lead, those in about 20 other issues. And I'm proud of those results. And I think many of those will continue to provide real help to the people I represent in Ohio and people around the country. So that's what I hope to be remembered for. But, you know, that's not going to be my decision. History will judge."

In 2016, Portman ran for re-election against former Gov. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio). During that race Portman had to navigate the emergence of Donald Trump and fielded questions about Trump's rhetoric being racist, xenophobic, and misogynist. Portman announced he would not vote for Trump in the 2016 presidential election, but four years later endorsed the president in his re-election campaign.

Portman acknowledges Trump's popularity in Ohio and discusses what the future of the Ohio Republican Party will look like.

"Compared to some other parties around the country, I think the Ohio Republican Party's in pretty good shape. I'm not saying there aren't differences of opinion in how Donald Trump handled himself, particularly toward the end of his term here. There are. I hear about it every day, as you know. But I do think that we're focused more in Ohio on what unites us, which is the policies. You know, it is the free enterprise system. It is tax relief and regulatory relief and ensuring we have a strong military, the things that that bring Republicans together. And that tends to be the way the Republican Party has gone," Portman said.

The two-term Republican senator also has advise to anyone looking to run for his seat in 2022.

"It's a diverse state. You know, we have everything. We have the big cities. We have a lot of rural areas. We're number seven in the country on agriculture and number three in the country on manufacturing. I mean, we've got the Appalachian region, which is a poor area where we've got a lot of tough rural issues like lack of broadband. We've got big cities, where we have the classic issues that urban areas are facing.

"And so we've got everything. And so my advice is, you got to get out and around Ohio. With COVID, it's harder, but you got to really get a feel for it and work really hard. People expect you to work hard. They like to see you sweat. I was bouncing around the state in my RV during both my campaigns. We were on the road constantly."

Portman says he's leaving politics because of the partisan gridlock that's been building for years. So, will Portman consider running for office in the future?

"I'm not planning to run for anything, but I'm not closing the door either. If something were to come along I thought I could make a contribution again. I would look at it. But I'm not planning anything. I'm planning to go home. I mean, I got two more years here and I'm going to work hard as I can for my state and as I have been doing, focus on finding getting results, legislation, oversight, things people care about.

"I've got a bunch of legislative initiatives teed up that I want to get across the finish line, like retirement security, helping people to, for one case, IRAs. I've got a new anti-drug bill I think is really important at this time. With the COVID-19 crisis, the opioid crisis and the drug addiction crisis generally has increased also. So there's some things I really, really want to get done."

Portman still has two years left in his term. He says he will be a juror in the upcoming impeachment trial of Donald Trump that listens to both sides. Earlier this week, Portman joined most of his Republican colleagues in supporting a measure that would delay the trial in order to question the constitutionality of impeaching a former president.

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