GOP Ohio Sen. Portman not seeking reelection, cites gridlock

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FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2021 file photo, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, speaks to members of the media outside a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Portman said Monday, Jan. 25 that he won't seek reelection and plans to end a career in federal government spanning more than three decades. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

CINCINNATI – Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said Monday that he won’t seek reelection to a third term in 2022, expressing dismay with the deep partisanship and dysfunction in American politics.

The career establishment Republican with a reputation for bipartisanship cited a political climate that has made it “harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress."

“Our country is very polarized,” Portman said, adding that former President Donald Trump did not help with the polarization. “It’s shirts and skins right now. We need to tone it down.”

The decision is one measure of the difficult politics facing many Republicans in Washington as they cede power in President Joe Biden's administration and watch their party split between hard-right Trump supporters and others eager to turn the page. Portman, a moderate who might see growing influence as Biden looks for allies, did not appear optimistic about the prospect of a new political climate.

Portman, 65, is among the longtime Republican lawmakers who often backed Trump, though not vociferously. Once dubbed “The Loyal Soldier” in a front-page profile story in his hometown Cincinnati Enquirer, Portman usually defended Trump or avoided criticism of him with carefully worded statements. After Trump called the presidential election rigged, citing no legitimate evidence, Portman said Trump had a right to a probe of any irregularities.

But immediately after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob of Trump backers, Portman said Trump needed to go on national TV to tell his supporters to refrain from violence.

“Both in his words before the attack on the Capitol and in his actions afterward, President Trump bears some responsibility for what happened,” Portman said.

His retirement adds another open seat for the GOP to defend in 2022 as it seeks to regain control of a Senate that Democrats hold by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris being the tiebreaking vote. Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, two other more mainstream Republicans in the Senate GOP caucus, have also said they won't seek reelection next year.