A Closer Look: Ohio's 2022 Senate Race
Updated: Feb 2
A week ago, the Junior Senator from Ohio, Rob Portman, announced that he would not seek Re-Election to a third term in next year's Senate race. Among the reasons cited by the Senator for this decision include the high levels of "partisan gridlock" and the 'political turmoil" that the nation is currently being subjected to. Portman, a 'by the book' Establishment Republican, was first elected to the Senate 11 years ago in 2010. He defeated the Democratic nominee, Lee Fisher who at the time was the sitting Lieutenant Governor of Ohio under the Ted Strickland administration. Strickland, a very unpopular Governor was also defeated on the exact same evening in a landslide by John Kasich. It was truly one of the strongest rebukes of a Gubernatorial administration in state history when you see just how badly the two figureheads of said Administration were rejected by voters in their respective races.
In 2016, Senator Portman announced his intention to seek a 2nd term. In what was truly a lopsided victory, he went on to carry 84 of Ohio's 89 counties, including Franklin County, which is the location of Columbus, the state capital and one of Ohio's most Liberal cities. When Portman first ran in 2010, he was a strong supporter and affiliate of the ever growing 'Tea Party' coalition. However, as time wore on, he became softer on many key issues, and started adopting a more Centre-Left outlook on various Social and economic issues. Following the election of Donald Trump in 2016, Portman quickly realized that if he wanted to stay in the President's good graces, and not offset the majority of the GOP base (and most importantly, those who voted to send him back), he had to shift back towards the right wing. Now, in spite of my minor dislike for Senator Portman, as someone who has to put up with Sherrod Brown as our Senior Senator and his nonsense, it's at least a positive to have a Republican representing us in the upper chamber of Congress.
Now that Senator Portman is out the door, it's time to look at some of the individuals who have been rumored to be looking at a run in 2022. First up, we have Josh Mandel. Mandel, a former City Councilman for Lyndhurst, Ohio (a suburb located east of Cleveland) and State Representative, has a strong Conservative background, and has been decent when it comes to his support of President Trump and his agenda. However, It's not too clear at the moment whether or not he has a keen outlook on such things like Economic Populism, Immigration Restrictionism, Anti-Globalism stances, etc. If he decides to enter the race, we will more than likely figure out where he stands on these issues and more. From 2011 to 2019, he has served as Ohio's Treasurer and is a strong fiscal Conservative as a result. He did run for the Senate once before in 2012 against Sherrod Brown, who at the time was still a Freshman Senator. Brown won, but by a narrow margin, and truth be told, if it weren't for the fact that he was up for Re-Election the same year as President Obama (who was very popular in Ohio at the time), Mandel would likely have been the one defending Ohio's Class II Senate seat in 2018; not Brown. Either way, he'd be a decent candidate, and a big improvement from that of Rob Portman.
Next up, we have Jane Timken. Presently, Mrs. Timken serves as the Chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party. With a position as powerful as that, one might instantly assume that should she run for the U.S Senate seat next year, the primary election would be over before it had begun. However, this will not be the case and here is why. Timken is a fellow member of the Establishmentarian class of the Republican Party, largely by default since she is the OHGOP Chair. The OHGOP has, for decades, been riddled with Establishment procedure and rule and there hasn't been many signs in recent years that this will change, especially considering that Timken was voted into the position of Chair by an overwhelming margin by Party leaders. However, amongst the voters of this state who are Conservative, Donald Trump's agenda has resonated with them much more strongly than that of the 'Same old, same old' agenda put forth by the OHGOP. Timken supports Trump, but only because he was the President and because she was expected to. If given the opportunity to decide for herself whether or not Donald Trump was allowed to be the GOP nominee for Re-Election in or 2020 election, she would have slighted the President by picking someone else, possibly Mike Pence. And this also applies to 2024. She would fight tooth and nail to prevent the re-nomination of Trump, and to ensure he was soundly defeated in Ohio's Republican Primary election, much like he was in 2016 when John Kasich won big. So, to sum up, Timken is the female embodiment of Senator Portman. She will not be of any use to he movement we have begun and the subsequent transformation we are actively pursuing of the GOP.
A third potential candidate is Jim Renacci. Renacci has had an extensive career in Politics and is, to a degree, a high profile figure in Ohio's political scene. However, there are growing calls from Republican voters across the state for him to not run in 2022. Though he would most certainly win the General election (should he advance from the Primary), he is seen as a bit of a liability largely due to his sub-par debate skills, campaign efforts, and general outreach/communication to voters. Had he done a significantly better job with these things in 2018, Brown could be in retirement right about now. That said, Renacci is a big supporter of Donald Trump and his agenda, and was not afraid to align with it. He also was not afraid to tie himself to the President, which shows that he firmly acknowledges that the GOP's future will be determined by whether or the party establishment caves in to Trumpism. He has loads of experience to point to should he throw his hat in the ring. Not only did he serve on the City Council of the town he has lived in for much of his life, Wadsworth, Ohio, but he served as its President. Later, he was elected Mayor and served in that role for 4 years, and garnered a strong percentage of the total vote share in both of his elections (Wadsworth Mayors serve 2 year terms). In 2010 and off the back of the Tea Party movement, Jim found himself on the winning end of the election to represent Ohio's 16th Congressional District which covers a sliver of Cincinnati and most of its suburbs. He would go on to serve 4 terms prior to entering the Senate race in 2017. I am personally ‘friends’ with Jim via Facebook, and he is quite active on the platform. He hasn’t show any indication yet as to whether or not he will run next year, but I’ll be sure to keep a watchful eye on his page.
Lastly, we have Congressman Mike Turner, of Ohio’s 10th Congressional District. A staunch supporter of the President in most regards, Congressman Turner has diligently served the people of Ohio’s 10th District ever since he was elected in 2012. Prior to his service in the 10th, he had served for nine years in a different district and had also served as the Mayor of Dayton, and as of the time of writing this, has been the last Republican to hold that office. His former district in Congress covered the suburbs of Columbus, but he was able to represent his hometown as a result of redistricting. From 2014 to 2016, Turner had a prominent role within NATO, serving as the President of its Parliamentary assembly. Turner is slightly Establishmentarian, and he came out in support of Red Flag laws in the wake of the 2019 mass shooting in Dayton, of which his daughter (given her whereabouts at the time of the shooting) could have been a victim. However, he‘s displayed Populist tendencies when it comes to fiscal matters (as reflected in his voting record), and closely aligns with the ‘America First’ movement. If he can polish up on Immigration and walk back on Red Flag laws, he will more than certainly be a fantastic choice for the Senate, and would indeed be a favorite to secure the Republican nomination. I also feel compelled to share that Turner is my Congressman. So I’m a bit biased ;)
These are but a few of the potential candidates who might run for the Republican nomination next year. Given that this and many primary elections throughout the 2022 Election cycle will serve as a ‘referendum’ of sorts on the Trump agenda and the future of Trumpism, one can expect the field for Ohio’s race to be a crowded one. Some will be in favor of taking the party back towards the center, and others will be in favor of keeping it on its current trajectory of embracing the non-radical fringe of the right wing. It’s a shame that Jim Jordan has come out and stated that he will not be running for the Seat, but he will continue to be an effective member of Congress. Lots to look forward to in the days, weeks, and months ahead.