Ohio GOP List of Replacements for Sen. Portman Long but Narrowing


Rob Portman’s U.S. Senate seat is up for grabs after the establishment Republican announced he would not run for re-election in 2022. Portman cited gridlock and more time with family as primary reasons driving his decision to step away from federal politics – ending his 33 year career since his first political job as a legal aid to President George H.W. Bush in 1989.

Following the announcement, the Ohio rumor mill swirled with talk about many prospective Republican replacements.

Jim Jordan (R-OH-4) is a strong Trump advocate and member of the House Freedom Caucus who has represented Ohio in D.C. since 2007. His spokesperson said the congressman was honored by the overwhelming support to run for U.S. Senate but is solely focused on representing Ohio’s Fourth District and would not be running.

Two-term Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican, ran for U.S. Senate in 2012 against Democrat Sherrod Brown, losing the general election by six points. Mandel was again a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2018, set to battle Sherrod Brown before dropping out of the race, citing health issues with his wife.

Mandel raised over $25 million during the 2012 race and may have upwards of $5 million left in the political war chest should he decide to run.

Former U.S. Representative Jim Renacci held an online town hall meeting last month where he was asked if he would primary Governor DeWine in 2022. Renacci said he would do whatever it takes to move Ohio forward.

The business owner and chairman of Ohio’s Future Foundation squared-off against Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in the 2018 U.S. Senate race, where he lost to the incumbent by a little more than six points.

An investment banker and an attorney, former Republican primary candidate for U.S. Senate Mike Gibbons reminisced in a Facebook post on Tuesday about the fun he and his team had back in 2018 on the campaign trail – perhaps a prelude to a forthcoming announcement.

Jane Timken, chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party, took over the state GOP top spot in January 2017. Previously she was the party’s vice chairwoman going back to 2010.  An attorney, Timken served as a magistrate on the Stark County Court of Common Pleas from 2002 – 2007.

She has never competed for a public office but is known as a prolific fundraiser and giver – along with her husband, W.J. Timken, Jr., chairman and CEO of TimkenSteel.

Timken told cleveland.com she is “seriously considering” a run for the Senate next year, saying she has a strong relationship with the party’s county chairpersons and has been tested as a leader – making her able to pull Republicans together.

Warren Davidson (R-OH-8) may be the dark horse candidate. Davidson first secured his U.S. House seat in a special election when Congressman John Boehner’s seat was vacated. The representative won re-election in Ohio’s 8th District in 2020, beating Democrat Vanessa Enoch by nearly 40%.

Davidson, who is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, voted against impeaching President Trump, revoking funding for the border wall, and has been a pro-life advocate, a Second Amendment supporter and public opponent of Joe Biden’s orders – particularly allowing transgenders to compete in female sports.

Davidson has not publicly confirmed or denied interest.

The Ohio Lt. Governor  Jon Husted announced last week he will seek re-election as Lt. Governor in 2022.

Steve Stivers (R-OH-15) has been a member of the U.S. House since 2011 and his current term ends in January 2023. Like Portman, Stivers is seen as a conservative on major Republican bills but is also known to reach across the aisle. He has never run for statewide office – holding a seat in the Ohio Senate – but Stivers did raise over $4 million for his 2018 campaign.

Former Ohio Governor John Kasich has long been tagged a “RINO” (Republican in name only) by conservative members of the GOP, an opinion galvanized by his criticism of President Donald Trump and his virtual appearance at the Democratic National Convention, where he was featured in a video endorsing Joe Biden.

Ohio’s 69th governor ran for president in 2016 but suspended his campaign in May of that year. Kasich said during a television interview in late January that he believes he has more influence as an analyst than he could as a candidate and concluded that he won’t run.

President of Youngstown State University Jim Tressel was dubbed “The Senator” during his coaching days at Ohio State for his politically correct answers during press conferences and his sweater vests. His name often surfaces when political positions open, but he is likely not a serious candidate. However, he is rumored to be interested.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is in his first term as secretary, previously serving as an Ohio state senator from District 27 from 2011 to 2018.

LaRose is not a stranger to federal politics, working directly with John McCain during his 2008 presidential campaign.

LaRose spokesperson Jon Keeling provided this statement to The Ohio Star in an email “since he returned from full-time military service and began his career in public service, Secretary LaRose has been considered a rising star for higher office by Republican stalwarts and Conservative leaders. Currently, he’s coming off running the most successful election in state history under the most challenging of circumstances. The filing deadline is still a year away and Secretary LaRose’s focus right now is on finding ways to improve upon Ohio’s success so we can continue to thrive as a national model long into the future.”

U.S. Congressman Dave Joyce (R-OH-14), issued a statement after Portman announced his decision:

As someone who considers Rob a friend and has had the honor of working with him on a number of Buckeye priorities over the years, I’ve been glad to see lawmakers on both sides of the aisle applauding him for his decades of service. The recognition is well-deserved. There will be plenty of time in the coming weeks for lots of folks, myself among them, to consider their options moving forward but today is Rob’s day.

Joyce has been in the U.S. House since 2011, previously working as a prosecuting attorney in Geauga County for almost 25 years.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is in his first term as the state’s top legal advisor. Previously, Yost served as state auditor from 2011 – 2018. Yost was a pro-Kasich Republican during the 2016 Presidential Election and a vehement Trump opponent.  Yost announced Monday on Twitter that he would not run for the open seat but seek re-election as attorney general.

U.S. Representative Bill Johnson (R-OH-6) and U.S. Representative Brad Wenstrup (R-OH-2) are both believed to be considering a run for the upper chamber.

Also on the list: Venture capitalist and author JD Vance, perhaps best known for his novel-turned-Netflix-hit Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir of his life in Middletown, Ohio.

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Jack Windsor is Statehouse Reporter at The Ohio Star. Windsor is also an independent investigative reporter. Follow Jack on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].




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