December 5, 2021

Ohio Politics: Rob Portman’s departure leaves the door wide open for Ohio politicians

(Featured image courtesy of CNBC)

UPDATED 2:59 PM EST: Article originally stated that Rep. Steve Stivers represents Ohio’s 12th district. That is wrong, he represents the 15th district.

Last week, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio announced that he would not seek reelection in 2022. Senator Portman referenced “partisan gridlock” as the main reason that he would not seek another term. With Portman out of the race, the door is wide open for anyone to run for the Senate seat in 2022, and speculation has already started for just about everyone. 

On the Democratic side, the bench is stacked. One possible candidate is Dayton Mayor, Nan Whaley. Mayor Whaley announced last month that she would not seek reelection as Dayton’s Mayor. That announcement already had people talking about her possible candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Now, with Portman out of the way, those rumors are getting even louder. 

In addition to Mayor Whaley, other prominent Ohio Democrats have also been speculated to run. Former Presidential Candidate and current Ohio Representative, Tim Ryan is expected to announce his candidacy by March, according to a report by The New York Times ( Tim Ryan Is Said to Plan Senate Bid – The New York Times ( Dr. Amy Acton is also told to be considering a Senate bid considering her rise to popularity by advising Gov. Dewine on the COVID-19 Pandemic. Other names that have been thrown around on the Democratic side include Ohio House Minority, Leader Emilia Sykes; Columbus U.S. Representative, Joyce Beatty; fromer Columbus Mayor, Michael Coleman; Franklin County recorder and 2018 U.S. congressional candidate, Danny O’Connor; former director of the CFPB and 2018 gubernatorial candidate, Richard Cordray; as well as former chairman of the Ohio Democratic party, David Pepper. 

On the Republican side, there is also a pretty large field of possible contenders. Although, that field has narrowed slightly as some prominent names have announced that they will not run for Portman’s seat. Ohio congressman and Trump ally, Rep. Jim Jordan was expected to make a run for Portman’s seat. Jordan announced, however, that he will instead run for reelection for the House of Representatives. Another name that has been thrown out is Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. Husted announced that he considered running but has decided that he enjoys his current job and hopes to one day mount his own campaign for Governor of Ohio. 

Republican names that are still in the running include some prominent Ohio politicians. One of those names is former Representative Jim Renacci. Renacci ran an unsuccessful campaign in 2018 to try and unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown. 

Ohio Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, has also been rumored as a possible candidate in the GOP’s primary. Josh Mandel, who is a former state treasurer that ran for Brown’s senate seat in 2012 and 2018, has also been in the mix of possible candidates. In addition to those already mentioned, other possible candidates include Rep. Steve Stivers who represents Ohio’s 15th district, and Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Timken.

Portman’s announcement came as a surprise, considering he beat former Governor Ted Strickland by a wide margin in his 2016 election. Portman’s retirement signals a greater change within American politics. Portman is a moderate who has come under intense criticism from both the left and the right. His departure, along with other prominent moderate Republicans, could perhaps tell a larger story. They are no longer welcomed in the party of Trump. Sen. Mitt Romeny, former Sen. Jeff Flake, Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and many, many others have come under fire by their own party for not embracing Trump. With Trump now sidelined until at least 2024, the 2022 midterms will determine what the future of the Republican Party will look like. 

In Ohio, will Republicans try to appeal more to the Trump base or will they attempt to run as a moderate candidate and win the endorsements of Rob Portman and John Kasich? Or, perhaps the eventual 2022 Senate nominee will take a page out of Gov. DeWine’s playbook. In 2018, DeWine was able to walk a tightrope between supporting then-President Donald Trump and also appeal to moderate Republicans and win the endorsement of then-Governor John Kasich. Whoever wins the Ohio Republican primary will tell magnitudes about whether the Republican party will continue being the party of Trump even after his departure. 

The 2022 midterm race will also say magnitudes about the condition of Ohio politics. For years, Ohio has been a purple swing state. Oftentimes, it has been called a bellwether state. However, in recent years, Ohio has trended further and further red. The only Democrat to win statewide office in the past election cycle was Sen. Sherrod Brown. Sen. Brown was able to keep hold of his Senate seat in 2018 despite Democrats losing all other statewide races. If Republicans win Portman’s seat in 2022 and retain the Governor’s mansion, it will all but cement Ohio’s status as a red state. However, if Democrats are able to make some advancements in statewide races in 2022, that would suggest that Ohio is more purple than many assume, even despite Trump’s decisive 8 point victory in 2020.

  • J.J. is a Junior Political Science major and a Political Correspondent for The Chimes. J.J. served in the Capital University Student Government and has helped on different political campaigns. You can email him at

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