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Rob Portman says 'partisan gridlock' helped him decide not to seek reelection to Senate in 2022

Rob Portman
Posted at 10:40 AM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 17:01:45-05

CINCINNATI — Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced Monday morning he does not plan to seek a third term in 2022 after 30 years in federal government.

"This was not an easy decision, because representing the people of Ohio has been an honor," Portman wrote in a statement announcing his decision. "But I’ve been doing this a long time, longer than I ever intended."

Over the course of that decades-long political career, Portman wrote Monday, it has gotten harder and harder "to break through partisan gridlock," and this played into his decision to not seek reelection.

Portman, a 65-year-old Cincinnati native, began his career in Washington as head of President George H.W. Bush's Office of Legislative Affairs and has worked, in some capacity, with every president since. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1993 and remained there until 2005, when President George W. Bush tapped him for United States Trade Representative. Portman later spent a year leading Bush's Office of Management and Budget, resigned to work at the lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs and returned to D.C. as a senator in 2011.

He won his 2016 reelection campaign by a wide margin, leading the Washington Post to name him its candidate of the year. During the next four years, despite occasional public statements chastising President Donald Trump's behavior and legislative process, he remained a reliably conservative vote in the Senate, supported the president during his first impeachment and voted to confirm the embattled Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

"This is a tough time to be in public service," Portman wrote Monday. "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."

Although he said it has gotten more difficult to do the job, Portman also said he thinks his office has been among the most successful in the Senate, with 82 bills signed by President Donald Trump and 68 bills signed by President Barack Obama.

"I don’t think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done," Portman said.

He said he decided to make the announcement now with the hope that it gives other Republicans time to make the decision on who will run for his office.

Portman will hold the office through the end of 2022 and said he is prepared to work with President Joe Biden.

"I am hopeful that President Biden will follow through on his inaugural pledge to reach across the aisle, and I am prepared to work with him and his administration if he does," Portman said. "I hope the Administration will work with us on a more targeted approach that focuses on things like vaccine distribution, testing and getting kids back to school."

Generally voting with his party, Portman broke ranks in 2013 to announce support for same-sex marriage. He said their son Will had earlier come out as gay to him and his wife, Jane. They have three children, whom Portman thanked in his announcement on Monday.

"Jane and our three children have been 100 percent supportive, but I am really looking forward to being home in Ohio full time, seeing family and friends more, and getting back to the private sector, including being able to be more involved in the community and in our family business," he wrote. "And I plan to stay involved in public policy issues"

Other longtime Ohio politicians, including Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and Gov. Mike DeWine, wished Portman well and thanked him for his time in office.

“Senator Portman has worked tirelessly on behalf of Ohioans during his two terms in the United States Senate," Dewine wrote, adding that he considered Portman a key figure in coordinating the state's COVID-19 relief at a federal level.

“Rob and I have worked together on issues that matter to Ohioans, from protecting the health of Lake Erie, to better enforcing our trade laws, to helping Ohioans who are struggling with addiction," Brown wrote in a statement. "We’ve not always agreed with one another, but we’ve always been able to put our differences aside to do what’s best for our state. Connie and I thank Rob for his career of public service and wish him and Jane well.”

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken said in a statement following Portman’s announcement that his service has been “invaluable.”