Who Will Succeed Portman?

U.S.+Senator+Rob+Portman+speaking+in+Columbus+in+2015.

Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

U.S. Senator Rob Portman speaking in Columbus in 2015.

Now that Senator Rob Portman announced he will not seek reelection, the ballot is wide open, and the field of candidates for the 2022 race is already getting crowded. 

Recent BHS grads and students close to graduation will be able to vote in this election. So let’s look at the main candidates.

One person who’s already declared their candidacy is Josh Mandel, a Beachwood alum. A former state treasurer and two-time senate candidate, the staunch Trump ally and conspiracy theorist is running again. He has repeated baseless accusations of voter fraud and said that the impeachment of ex-president Trump was unconstitutional.

Mandel is controversial now, but he was also controversial when he ran for Senate the first time (in 2012). His then-family (his in-laws; he is now divorced) took out an ad in the Cleveland Jewish News denouncing him for homophobia. According to a fact-check by Politifact, Mandel’s spokesperson said that Mandel “has always opposed discrimination” but “has also always believed that marriage is between one man and one woman.” 

As a state legislator, he voted against a bill to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, making  it clear that he does not oppose discrimination.

When Mandel announced his candidacy this year, he took to Twitter to swear opposition to the “cabal of Democrats and Republicans who sound the same and stand for nothing.” This sounds suspiciously like the dangerous, debunked QAnon conspiracy theory about a cabal of pedophilic Democratic insiders. After referencing the “sham impeachment,” he vowed to “pulverize the Uniparty.”

As a state legislator, Mandel voted against a bill to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, making  it clear that he does not oppose discrimination.”

For reference, the impeachment trial of now-private citizen Trump was based on an article of impeachment alleging he incited the insurrection on Jan. 6. During the trial, the House Impeachment Managers showed videos of Trump telling his supporters to “fight like hell” and Rudy Giuliani calling for “trial by combat.” They sought to prevent the bipartisan certification of the 2020 election results by Congress. Mandel’s phrase “pulverize the Uniparty” is no different. He’s either ignorant of both the current political climate and the English language or, more likely, he knew exactly what he wanted to say.

It’s people like Mandel who bring the question: How long must a Beachwood graduate remain tied to the school? Josh Mandel, who sided with a white supremacist in opposition to the Anti-Defamation League, would in all likelihood oppose Beachwood’s Board of Education anti-racism efforts. While a simple difference of opinion would not be grounds for disavowing him, this is clearly more than that. His public defense of a racist, misogynist provocateur is appalling. 

Mandel also criticized Gov. DeWine and Dr. Acton for their handling of the pandemic. But Dr. Acton, who is considering running for the open Senate seat as well, is a much more rational person. She led the state’s Department of Health through the pandemic, enacting orders designed to reduce the spread. And her orders worked. But she resigned after state legislators tried to restrict her authority and anti-Semitic protestors gathered around her home.

Dr. Acton’s resignation was brought on by increasing Republican resistance to scientific evidence. With conservative lawmakers in Columbus looking to curtail her authority to issue public health orders, she feared that she would be forced to violate the Hippocratic Oath. A public health leader — a public health expert — was pushed out by politicians who are neither leaders nor experts. Dr. Acton remained nonpartisan through her tenure as Director of Ohio’s Dept of Health  and had the integrity to resign rather than do harm; she would serve Ohio well in an increasingly polarized Senate which Josh Mandel would only make more severe given his antagonistic tone toward Gov. DeWine (R) for following the recommendations of public health experts. 

Dr. Acton would serve Ohio well in an increasingly polarized Senate which Josh Mandel would only make more severe, given his antagonistic tone toward Gov. DeWine (R) for following the recommendations of public health experts. ”

At publication, Dr. Acton has not confirmed her candidacy for Senate; all that is known is that she has stepped down from her nonprofit job to consider a run. Because of this, the details of her policy views cannot be pinpointed. Given that her potential candidacy is as a member of the Democratic Party, though, it should be noted that she is likely to lean to the left of center.

There are other candidates, to be sure. Tim Ryan, a Representative, is reportedly planning to run. He’s a centrist who lost his campaign for president in the most recent primary. While he is somewhat well-known and his nomination would make the race close, he is still a centrist — and centrism is not often a winning ideology in closed primaries. 

Ryan  represents the Youngstown area, which would mean two senators from Northern Ohio should he or Mandel win. Acton is the top candidate not living in Northern Ohio, which is a potentially important aspect for swing voters but not likely to be the top of anyone’s priorities.

These are the leading contenders in a race certain to attract national attention (and funding).

The election is in November 2022, but we already know that this is going to be a long election cycle. So get ready to watch intently. Our future depends on it. 

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