By Jim Ellis
Jan. 28, 2021 — Monday’s surprise announcement that Sen. Rob Portman (R) will not seek re-election next year has ignited a flurry of activity and speculation from potential candidates and political observers alike. Some looking to challenge Gov. Mike DeWine (R) are now also beginning to survey and assess how an open US Senate candidate field might unfold.
Recent voter history suggests that the eventual Republican nominee will at least begin the general election campaign in the favorite’s role. The GOP, with a large number of statewide office holders, former elected officials, and a dozen sitting US House members, has an array of candidates from which to choose, and many will take the plunge.
For example, former US Rep. Jim Renacci, who held Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) to a 53-47 percent victory in the 2018 campaign and was reportedly looking to challenge Gov. DeWine in the 2022 Republican primary, may now set his sights on the open Senate seat.
Another ex-office holder, Pat Tiberi, who averaged 60.6 percent of the vote over nine elections from a Columbus area congressional district that former governor and presidential candidate John Kasich once held, still sits on more than $5 million in his federal campaign account even though he hasn’t been on the ballot since 2016.
It was widely believed that he was amassing a huge war chest to run against Sen. Brown in ’18, but family considerations led him to change his mind, resign from Congress and instead take the reins of the Ohio Business Roundtable.
Still another former elected official, ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who lost the 2012 Senate election to Sen. Brown, was planning to run again in 2018 until leaving the race because of his wife’s health issue. Mandel raised almost $20 million for his Senate race eight years ago and has over $4 million in his campaign account even though he has not been a federal candidate in eight years.
Republicans hold all of the state’s constitutional offices. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Attorney General Dave Yost, state Treasurer Robert Sprague, and State Auditor Keith Faber are all credible potential US Senate candidates.