What you missed in Columbus for Jan. 25

Andy Downing
adowning@columbusalive.com

In late breaking news this morning, Republican Sen. Rob Portman said that he would not seek reelection in 2022. In a press release announcing the surprising decision, Portman cited the deep partisan divide within Congress, as well as a desire to spend more time with his family, as key reasons for stepping aside. 

“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,” he wrote in a press release. “This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades.”

Portman’s seat was one that Ohio Democrats had targeted for midterm elections, though the Republican would have been heavily favored against any challenger. Now, the seat likely moves closer to a toss-up, pending a list of interested candidates on both sides of the aisle, which should balloon considerably in the coming weeks.

(There’s alreadytalk of Jim Jordan making a run for the Republican nomination, which makes complete sense, butare we really going to do this, Ohio?)

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Over the weekend, news spread that internationally celebrated, Columbus-based artist Pheoris West died. Previously, West had been in recovery following a severe 2016 stroke. “It was horrific what he went through,” said West’s wife, Michele, in a 2017 interview with Alive about his slow early recovery.

A native of Albany, New York, West was drawn to art from an early age, earning a Master’s of Fine Arts degree from Yale University. After meeting Michele, the couple moved to Columbus in 1976, where West took a job as an associate professor at Ohio State University, where he continued to teach (with Emeritus status) until his stroke.

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On Saturday, Upper Arlington police responded to a call aboutshots being fired into the home of Dr. Mary Kathleen Francis, assistant medical director for the Ohio Department of Health.

Police said it was too early to tell if the shots were related to Francis’ job, but if the incident was tied to her position, she would not be the first woman targeted for having a public health role amid the ongoing pandemic. Previously, Dr. Amy Acton resigned from her position as the state’s health director in June following protests at her Bexley home and recurring threats of violence. At the time, Gov. Mike DeWine defended Acton and told protesters to direct their frustrations at him.

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Two Columbus menwere charged with their roles in the January attack on the U.S. Capitol. The men,Dustin Byron Thompson and Robert Anthony Lyon, were charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted federal building or grounds without lawful authority, violent entry, and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Thompson was also charged with theft of a coat rack after surveillance photos showed him removing the item from the Capitol building.

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Finally, the matchup is set for the Super Bowl, with returning champs the Kansas City Chiefs set to face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in two weeks. The Chiefs dispatched of the Buffalo Bills on Sunday by a score of 38-24, while the Buccaneers overcame quarterback Tom Brady throwing a trio of interceptions, holding on to beat the Green Bay Packers 31-26.

The Chiefs will be heavy favorites going into the game, though Brady clearly knows a few things about winning championships following his all-time great run in New England.

Sen. Rob Portman, pictured during a committee meeting in June