U.S. Sen. Rob Portman won't run for re-election. Which Republicans might run instead?
COLUMBUS – U.S. Sen. Rob Portman announced Monday that he won't run for re-election, leaving a hole on the top of the GOP ticket in Ohio that candidates will rush to fill.
Republicans have a deep bench in Ohio, controlling 12 of 16 seats in U.S. Congress, nearly all statewide elected offices and both chambers in the Ohio Legislature. That means the GOP will have plenty of takers to replace Ohio's junior senator.
Timeline: Rob Portman's career at a glance
Few have Portman's fundraising prowess, which broke a state record in 2016 when he easily defeated former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. But donors will line up to hold onto Ohio's Senate seat as Democrats seek to secure their control over the chamber in 2022.
Who are possible contenders? Republicans speculated on which candidates would run for the prominent post.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana
Jordan, a former state lawmaker and a U.S representative since 2007, has developed a national brand as a stalwart supporter of former President Donald Trump.
Jordan, 56, led the GOP defense of Trump during the House's impeachment of the president following riots at the U.S. Capitol. Trump awarded Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor.
Before that, Jordan was a founding member of the conservative Freedom Caucus and a thorn in then-Speaker John Boehner's side. The West Chester Republican once called Jordan "a legislative terrorist."
Jordan is a powerhouse fundraiser with nearly $5.1 million on hand in his congressional campaign fund, according to Federal Election Commission records.
But Jordan could want to stay in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he has built a conservative brand.
Jordan also comes with potential baggage. Several former Ohio State University wrestlers alleged Jordan, who was an assistant coach, knew about sexual abuse perpetrated by team doctor Richard Strauss in the 1990s. Jordan has denied having any prior knowledge of the abuse.
Former treasurer Josh Mandel
Mandel, 43, is no stranger to U.S. Senate politics.
"Sen. Portman has served our nation with character, integrity and statesmanship. My passion for service has never waned, from serving my community, to serving our state, to serving our country for two tours in Iraq," Mandel said in a statement Monday. "Any opportunity to continue that service is something I will consider very seriously."
He ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2012 and was poised for a bruising rematch in 2018. Instead, he dropped out of the race to focus on his wife's health. They have since divorced.
Mandel has been relatively quiet since then. He filed paperwork to challenge Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge but never ran in the 2020 race. The move kept his campaign account active.
That account now holds about $4.3 million in cash on hand, according to FEC data.
During his bid against Brown, Mandel was criticized for using $1.84 million in taxpayer-funded television ads featuring then-Ohio State University head coach Urban Meyer to promote himself rather than savings accounts for those with developmental disabilities.
Former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci
Renacci, 62, has been here once before.
In 2018, Renacci was poised to run for Ohio governor against then-Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. Instead, he dropped out of that race to challenge Brown – a race he ultimately lost.
Now Renacci is mulling a 2022 primary challenge to DeWine's re-election bid. Will he veer off course again?
Renacci, a former U.S. representative and Wadsworth mayor, owned car dealerships, nursing homes and other businesses throughout his career. That means he can self-fund a campaign, which he did against Brown.
Renacci ran what many considered to be a weak campaign against Brown in 2018 and lost by 6.8 percentage points.
U.S. Congressmen: Steve Stivers, Bill Johnson, Brad Wenstrup
U.S. Rep. Stivers, 55, is a possible contender in the vein of Portman himself.
Stivers, a Columbus Republican and Ohio Army National Guard member, is frequently listed among the nation's most bipartisan members of Congress. He even launched a "civility caucus" with Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty, of Columbus.
Stivers has years of experience in Washington D.C. and $1.25 million in cash on hand, according to FEC data. He previously led the National Republican Congressional Committee.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, 66, of Marietta, is another name being tossed around. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Johnson represents southeastern Ohio and recently objected to now-President Joe Biden's victory in Pennsylvania.
Johnson has just under $1 million on hand.
U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Columbia Tusculum, said in a statement that he will talk with family, Ohio Republicans and supporters about he can best serve the community, state and nation. He has about $463,500 on hand.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, 41, has considered running for U.S. Senate one day, but will he move up that timetable?
The Army veteran and former state senator was elected to Ohio Secretary of State in 2018. With redistricting on the horizon, LaRose has plenty on his plate, but higher office has been a goal.
"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," spokesman Jon Keeling said.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, 53, is expected to run as Gov. Mike DeWine's No. 2 in their 2022 re-election bid. But he's interested in topping the ticket one day.
"I will talk to Gov. DeWine and I will talk to Sen. Portman, but most of all, I will talk to my family and see if this is something that makes sense," Husted said Monday. "Beyond that, I've given no thought to it."
Attorney General Dave Yost, 64, is taking a look at the race, too.
"I am going to run the traps and talk with family and friends and figure out where I can best serve the people of Ohio."
Candidates with federal money in the bank already would have an advantage over statewide candidates like LaRose or Husted because that money can't transfer to a U.S. Senate campaign.
Author J.D. Vance
"Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance, 36, considered a U.S. Senate bid in 2018 but ultimately decided against it.
Vance's book, which detailed his childhood in Middletown and his mother's drug addiction, became popular after Trump's victory in 2016. In the years since, the novel has received criticism for being an inaccurate depiction of Appalachian life. Netflix recently released a movie about the novel starring actresses Amy Adams and Glenn Close.
Ohio GOP Party leader Jane Timken
Timken, 54, has never run for office, but she has plenty of experience in politics.
Since Timken unseated then-Gov. John Kasich's hand-picked state GOP party leader in Jan2017, she has gained prominence and respect in Republican circles. She was just re-elected to lead the party unanimously.
A well-regarded fundraiser, Timken is married to the former CEO of TimkenSteel.
But Timken has been a mostly behind-the-scenes player in Ohio politics. Running for U.S. Senate would be a dramatic shift for the Republican leader.
Who isn't running? Kasich
Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich will not run for U.S. Senate, a spokesman confirmed. The three-time presidential candidate turned CNN commentator isn't a popular pick for Republicans in Ohio, especially after speaking at the Democratic National Convention.
If the heavy-hitters aren't interested in a run, the GOP field could widen dramatically and quickly.
Former politicians, business leaders and current officeholders could throw their hats into the ring. Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons, for example, expressed interest in a bid Monday. Trump won the state by 8 percentage points, making Ohio a desirable state for Republicans to run in.
Serious candidates should have time to raise the money needed to be competitive, but Democrats have already set up a fund to defeat Rob Portman in 2022 – or rather, whoever replaces him.
Reporters Jackie Borchardt, Randy Ludlow and Rick Rouan contributed to this article.