GOP Senator Says He Won't Seek Re-Election in 2022 Due to Polarized Politics


Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said Monday that he won’t seek re-election to a third term in 2022, expressing dismay with the deep partisanship and dysfunction in American politics.

The career establishment Republican with a reputation for bipartisanship cited a political climate that has made it “harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress.”

“Our country is very polarized,” Portman said. “It’s shirts and skins right now. We need to tone it down.”

Portman, 65, is among the longtime Republican lawmakers who often backed Trump, though not vociferously.

Once dubbed “The Loyal Soldier” in a front-page profile story in his hometown Cincinnati Enquirer, Portman usually defended Trump or avoided criticism of him. After Trump called the presidential election rigged, Portman said Trump had a right to a probe of any irregularities.

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His retirement adds another open seat for the GOP to defend in 2022 as it seeks to regain control of a Senate that Democrats hold by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote.

Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, two other more mainstream Republicans in the Senate GOP caucus, have also said they won’t seek re-election next year.

Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, former chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said he wasn’t worried about moderates fleeing the party.

“(Portman’s departure) says nothing about the 2022 landscape,” Young said.

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“It says a lot about Rob Portman that, two years out, he made the announcement so that Republicans have plenty of time to field a very strong candidate and to give that candidate sufficient time to run a strong campaign, which they will.”

Eight-term Rep. Jim Jordan, an outspoken Trump supporter from western Ohio, and six-term Rep. Bill Johnson, from heavily pro-Trump southeast Ohio, are viewed as potential candidates for Portman’s seat. Likewise, former Rep. Jim Renacci from central Ohio, a Republican who lost a Senate challenge to Democrat Sherrod Brown in 2018, is also considered a possible contender.

Portman’s announcement came the same day that the Senate is receiving the House impeachment article against Trump.

While some Republican senators have criticized going ahead with the trial with Trump out of office, Portman said last week that he would listen to the evidence presented by both sides before deciding how to vote.

Republicans have 20 seats up for re-election in 2022, compared to 14 for Democrats. Those GOP seats include presidential battlegrounds Wisconsin, where Trump narrowly lost in November, and Florida, where he won by more than 3 percentage points.

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Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has not yet said whether he’ll seek a third term. Meanwhile, six-term Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who would turn 89 two months before the 2022 election, said he would decide this year whether to seek a seventh. Two-term Missouri Republican Roy Blunt has not said whether he’ll seek a third.

Ohio, a perennial battleground for decades, has become more reliably Republican, carried by Trump by more than 8 percentage points in 2016 and 2020. Portman was considered likely to face a primary challenge from the right.

“Yeah, sure, some people are mad at him,” said Ohio Republican strategist Ryan Stubenrauch. “But he wouldn’t have faced a credible primary challenge. He does his job. He’s a really good campaigner and well known across the state.”

Portman twice won election to the Senate by wide margins. Before that, he served seven terms in the House and a stint as President George W. Bush’s budget director.

Portman’s first federal government job started in 1989, when he served as an associate legal counsel in the George H.W. Bush White House.

Portman was elected to Congress from southern Ohio in a 1993 special election and won six more elections before President George W. Bush tapped him to serve as U.S. trade representative in 2005.

He traveled the globe, negotiating dozens of trade agreements. Bush then nominated him to be White House budget director in 2006.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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