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Sen. Rob Portman (R)

Ohio

N/A

portman.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: 2010, term expires 2016, 1st term.

Born: December 19, 1955, Cincinnati, OH

Home: Terrace Park, OH

Education: Dartmouth Col., B.A. 1979; U. of MI, J.D. 1984.

Professional Career: U.S. trade rep., 2005-06; dir., Office of Management and Budget, 2006-07; practicing atty., 2007-10.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Methodist

Family: Married (Jane Dudley) , 3 children

Republican Rob Portman is Ohio’s junior senator, elected in 2010 to succeed the retiring George Voinovich, also a Republican. Portman is a consummate Washington insider—he has served in the House as well as in both Bush White Houses, and has drawn comparisons to ex-President George H.W. Bush for his wonkish center-right views and an even-keeled modesty. He boosted his public profile with his 2013 decision to support same-sex marriage, and was in the mix as a possible presidential candidate in 2016 before taking himself out of the running.

Portman grew up in Cincinnati, where his father in 1960 started a forklift company that eventually employed 300 people. His mother’s family owns the Golden Lamb, the oldest inn in Ohio, and his ancestors were Quaker abolitionists active in the Underground Railroad. Portman worked summers at the forklift company, sweeping floors and grinding old paint off trucks. While at Dartmouth College, Portman hung out with a crowd nicknamed the “Granola Gang” that was known for its love of the outdoors; many of its members later went to work for the Peace Corps and in the renewable energy field. He took a semester off to work for Cincinnati area Rep. Willis Gradison, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. After graduating, he worked for Republican George H.W. Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign as part of the advance team setting up events—the beginning of a long association with the Bush family. He earned a law degree at the University of Michigan and then worked for law firms in Washington and Cincinnati.

After Bush was elected president in 1988, Portman went to the White House as a presidential counsel and then was promoted to head the Office of Legislative Affairs. In January 1993, when Gradison resigned his 2nd District House seat, Portman ran to fill the vacancy. He had help from former first lady Barbara Bush, who made a radio ad for him, and he won the seven-candidate primary with 36% of the vote to 30% for former Rep. Bob McEwen. The special election was anticlimactic; Portman won with 70% of the vote and was easily reelected from 1994 to 2004.

In the House, Portman got on the Ways and Means and Budget committees and became known for his fiscal conservatism and his ability to work across the aisle. He co-chaired the National Commission on Restructuring the Internal Revenue Service and won broad support for his repeal of the 3% excise tax on telephone service. He worked with Democrats, notably his current Senate colleague, Ben Cardin of Maryland (then a House member), on issues including pensions, welfare reform, land conservation, and drug prevention. He helped revise 401(k) rules to make it easier for small businesses to offer pension plans, but he got nowhere with a 2002 bill to repeal the alternative minimum tax. He also sponsored the bill to create a National Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati.

In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed Portman as the U.S. trade representative, in charge of negotiating free trade agreements and representing U.S. interests in global talks on reducing trade barriers. A year later, Bush appointed him director of the Office of Management and Budget, a position that requires immersion in the arcana of federal spending. Bush nicknamed him “The Mule,” in tribute to his persistence. Portman succeeded in pushing the budget more toward balance, although he later told The Hill newspaper that he was frustrated he couldn’t do more. “I wanted to offer a balanced budget over five years, and a lot of people didn’t,” he said. He left the agency in 2007 and returned to the Cincinnati area, where he joined a law firm, taught a class at the Ohio State University’s John Glenn School of Public Affairs, and coached his daughter’s soccer team.

Just after Voinovich announced in January 2009 that he would not run for a third term, Portman got into the contest for the seat, saying his focus would be on job creation. The timing of his candidacy did not seem propitious. He had virtually no name recognition beyond the Cincinnati media market, and Democratic President Barack Obama had just come to office having carried Ohio. Soon, two Democratic officials known statewide joined the race: Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. Polls showed Portman trailing both. Unfazed, he campaigned around the state in blue jeans and a windbreaker, put out a six-point jobs program, and cheerfully opposed the Democrats’ $787 billion stimulus bill and their health care overhaul. Portman raised serious money, $16.5 million, and he also profited from the fractious Democratic primary in May 2010, which Fisher won, 56%-44%.

In the fall campaign, Fisher derided Portman’s long friendship with the Bush family, telling The Columbus Dispatch, “Rob Portman had his hands on the steering wheel as George W. Bush drove us off the cliff and into the deepest economic ditch in most of our lives.” But Fisher had little money—much of the $6.4 million he raised was spent on the primary—and his position as Gov. Ted Strickland’s “jobs czar” in 2007 and 2008 proved a liability rather than an asset. Portman asserted that Ohio lost 400,000 jobs while he held the post. Portman called for a one-year suspension of the payroll tax, and he fended off criticism of his work as trade representative by saying he would make enforcement of trade laws a high priority. He was not a particular favorite of tea party activists, but they didn’t campaign against him either.

By October, the race was off everyone’s list of competitive contests. Fisher was far behind in the polls and out of money. On Election Day, Portman won 57%-39%. He carried 82 of 88 counties and ran even in usually Democratic northeast Ohio.

In the Senate, Portman’s vast government experience and demeanor quickly earned him respect from both parties. "Rob is smart and incredibly likable, personable, not mean, not angry," political analyst Stuart Rothenberg told Time. Portman also is regularly described as a "grownup," a description he self-deprecatingly waved off. "When your hair starts to turn more gray, as mine as has been, people are going to call you a grownup," he quipped.

His voting record has been conservative, but not extremely so. He made a splash in March 2013 when he reversed his opposition to same-sex marriage after he said his 21-year-old son, Will, came out as gay. Portman has worked with Democrats—he teamed with Montana’s Jon Tester on a 2012 bill to end the practice of government shutdowns, and he closely cooperated with Missouri’s Claire McCaskill on a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee inquiry into the Obama administration’s public relations spending. He and McCaskill also worked on legislation aimed at streamling the process for federal permits. And he has partnered for years with Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor on a bill to reform the federal regulatory process that drew support from Republicans as well as some conservative Democrats.

He unsuccessfully tried to amend the surface transportation reauthorization bill in 2012 to allow states to keep all of the federal gasoline tax money they collect, instead of sending it to Washington and later getting some returned. He later was one of 13 senators in July 2014 to oppose a short-term transportation bill "because it kicks the tough decisions down the road."

His highest-profile legislative work in the 113th Congress (2014-15) was with New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen on an energy-efficiency bill that was shelved in 2014 after it became entangled in a fight over whether Republicans could offer amendments to it. He also called for indexing the federal minimum wage to inflation and said his paty should show greater empathy for nonviolent drug offenders.

In Washingtonian’s anonymous 2012 survey of Capitol Hill staffers, Portman was tied for second (behind Florida’s Marco Rubio) with South Dakota Sen. John Thune as the senator most likely to someday become president. He also tied with Thune and two others as the lawmaker “least likely to star in a scandal.” He was regularly mentioned in 2012 as one of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s top prospective choices for a running mate.

He and Romney got along well, and he threw his Ohio organization behind the ex-Massachusetts governor before the crucial March 6 Republican primary in Ohio, which Romney won by just over 10,000 votes. Later, Portman took on the role of President Obama in Romney’s debate preparation sessions, having earlier portrayed other Democrats in similar mock debates. But Portman’s close association with the unpopular George W. Bush was probably a mark against him, along with the perception that his personality is bland. People who know him say the latter characterization is misguided; he has a reputation as a prankster, and his outdoors exploits include smuggling a kayak into China in the 1980s to paddle the Yangtze River.

Portman also raised more money for the National Republican Senatorial Committee than any other GOP freshman, and he briefly toyed with becoming the NRSC’s chairman before bowing to Kansas’ Jerry Moran. He settled for being one of two vice chairs.

Portman became the subject of some 2016 speculation after his party decided to hold its convention in Cleveland. “I’m not particularly eager to do it myself, and having been involved in six presidential campaigns, I know what it’s like,” he told The Washington Post. “But if nobody running is able to win and willing to address these issues, then I might have a change of heart.” In August, he made the requisite toe-in-the water trip to New Hampshire. But in December, he cited the new incoming GOP majority in the Senate as a key factor in his decision not to run. "It's just not possible to be involved with policy issues" and simultaneously gear up for a national campaign, he told reporters.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-3353

(202) 224-9075

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 448
Washington, DC 20510-3506

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-3353

(202) 224-9075

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 448
Washington, DC 20510-3506

DISTRICT OFFICE

(513) 684-3265

(513) 684-3269

312 Walnut Street Suite 3075
Cincinnati, OH 45202

DISTRICT OFFICE

(513) 684-3265

(513) 684-3269

312 Walnut Street Suite 3075
Cincinnati, OH 45202

DISTRICT OFFICE

(216) 522-7095

(216) 522-7097

1240 East Ninth Street Room 3061
Cleveland, OH 44199

DISTRICT OFFICE

(216) 522-7095

(216) 522-7097

1240 East Ninth Street Room 3061
Cleveland, OH 44199

DISTRICT OFFICE

(614) 469-6774

(614) 469-7419

37 West Broad Street Room 300
Columbus, OH 43215

DISTRICT OFFICE

(614) 469-6774

(614) 469-7419

37 West Broad Street Room 300
Columbus, OH 43215

DISTRICT OFFICE

(419) 259-3895

(419) 259-3899

420 Madison Avenue Room 1210
Toledo, OH 43604

DISTRICT OFFICE

(419) 259-3895

(419) 259-3899

420 Madison Avenue Room 1210
Toledo, OH 43604

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

825 Miami Avenue
Terrace Park, OH 45174-1224

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

825 Miami Avenue
Terrace Park, OH 45174-1224

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Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Aerospace

Patrick Orth
Legislative Assistant

Sarah Pearce
Legislative Correspondent

Agriculture

Patrick Orth
Legislative Assistant

Sarah Pearce
Legislative Correspondent

Appropriations

Brian Riedl
Legislative Assistant

Banking

Sam Mulopulos
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Budget

Brian Riedl
Legislative Assistant

Charlie Bolton
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Commerce

Sam Mulopulos
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Education

Allen Ernst
Legislative Correspondent

Megan Harrington
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Patrick Orth
Legislative Assistant

Sarah Pearce
Legislative Correspondent

Environment

Patrick Orth
Legislative Assistant

Sarah Pearce
Legislative Correspondent

Foreign

Charlie Bolton
Legislative Correspondent

Tyler Brace
Legislative Assistant

Gambling

Megan Harrington
Legislative Assistant

Govt Ops

Matthew Owen
Chief Counsel

Health

Jack Dolan
Legislative Correspondent

Sarah Schmidt
Legislative Assistant

Homeland Security

Tyler Brace
Legislative Assistant

Housing

Charlie Bolton
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Megan Harrington
Legislative Assistant

Human Rights

Megan Harrington
Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Megan Harrington
Legislative Assistant

Intelligence

Tyler Brace
Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Allen Ernst
Legislative Correspondent

Megan Harrington
Legislative Assistant

Labor

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Land Use

Megan Harrington
Legislative Assistant

Medicare

Sarah Schmidt
Legislative Assistant

Military

Tyler Brace
Legislative Assistant

Native Americans

Patrick Orth
Legislative Assistant

Sarah Pearce
Legislative Correspondent

Public Works

Patrick Orth
Legislative Assistant

Sarah Pearce
Legislative Correspondent

Megan Harrington
Legislative Assistant

Rules

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Science

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Seniors

Sarah Schmidt
Legislative Assistant

Brian Riedl
Legislative Assistant

Charlie Bolton
Legislative Correspondent

Social Security

Brian Riedl
Legislative Assistant

Charlie Bolton
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Tax

Charlie Bolton
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Technology

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Trade

Sam Mulopulos
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Baker
Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Allen Ernst
Legislative Correspondent

Veterans

Tyler Brace
Legislative Assistant

Women

Megan Harrington
Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2010 GENERAL
Rob Portman
Votes: 2,168,742
Percent: 56.85%
Lee Fisher
Votes: 1,503,297
Percent: 39.4%
2010 PRIMARY
Rob Portman
Votes: 667,369
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
House: 2004 (72%), 2002 (74%), 2000 (74%), 1998 (76%), 1996 (72%), 1994 (77%), 1993 special (70%)

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