Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) announced Monday that he will not seek reelection for a third term in the Senate in 2022, citing “partisan gridlock” as a major 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,” he added.
Portman stated he will serve the remaining two years of his term, but decided to announce his decision early to allow ample time for a Republican candidate to prepare “to gear up for a statewide race.”
“I decided to make my announcement now because I have made up my mind, but also because it will allow whichever Republicans who choose to run plenty of time to gear up for a statewide race,” he said. “Over the next two years, I look forward to being able to focus all my energy on legislation and the challenges our country faces rather than on fundraising and campaigning.”
The surprise announcement will set off a highly competitive race to fill the seat and could reshape the 2022 battlefield for control of the Senate.
National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) called Portman’s retirement a “big loss,” but promised the NRSC “will fight tirelessly” to recruit a successor that “supports a pro-growth, pro-family, pro-Ohio agenda.”
“The 2022 election in Ohio starts today and Republicans will hold that seat,” Scott said. “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.”
A number of Republicans could be in the mix. Rep. Jim Jordan, a close ally of President Trump, and Rep. Bill Johnson are viewed as strong potential statewide candidates. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, there are several potential candidates, including Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who lost a 2018 primary for governor, and Rep. Tim Ryan, who recently ran an unsuccessfully 2020 presidential bid for the Democratic nomination. Ryan in the hours since Portman’s announcement stated on Twitter that he is “looking seriously” at considering a bid.
Republicans have 20 seats up for reelection in 2022, with some of those seats being from battlegrounds states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania where Trump narrowly lost in November, and in Florida, where he won by more than 3 percentage points.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is undecided about 2022, saying in November he has “got to see how things play out.” However, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was firm on his plans for re-election, saying “we’re off and running” in his bid for a third term
Portman becomes the third Republican senator up for reelection in 2022 to announce retirement in key swing states, joining Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) leaving another open seat for the GOP to defend.