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Ohio Sen. Portman announces he won't seek re-election in 'polarized' environment

Lamenting lack of bipartisanship, the GOP senator's announcement comes just days ahead of Donald Trump's impeachment trial.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, at a confirmation hearing for Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for treasury secretary, last Tuesday, Jan. 19.Anna Moneymaker / Pool via AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, announced Monday that he will not seek re-election and instead will retire when his current term expires in 2022.

Portman made the surprising announcement in a statement in which he lamented a lack of bipartisanship in Washington, saying that the current environment makes it "a tough time to be in public service."

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

"For many of the issues I am most passionate about, I will continue to make a difference outside of the Senate, beyond 2022," Portman continued. "In the meantime, I am hopeful that President Biden will follow through on his inaugural pledge to reach across the aisle, and I am prepared to work with him and his administration if he does.”

Portman backed Donald Trump's 2020 presidential re-election bid, but his retirement announcement comes days before the Senate will begin to consider whether to vote to convict Trump of the House's impeachment charge that he incited the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

In recent years, a handful of more establishment-style Republican senators have decided to retire instead of running for re-election as the party has embraced the style and tone of Trump's brand of politics.

Portman has had a long career in politics, serving in the House for more than a decade and in both Bush administrations before his election to the Senate in 2010. The Ohio Republican easily dispatched his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Ted Strickland, in 2016 despite Democratic hopes that they could flip the seat.

Cut from more of the GOP-establishment cloth, Portman has regularly been ranked as one of the more bipartisan Senate Republicans over his tenure. In 2016, he withdrew his support for Trump's presidential campaign after the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape, where Trump was caught talking about groping women without consent.

The forthcoming vacancy will likely lead to a scramble to replace him on both sides of the aisle — Ohio Republicans will now have a wide-open primary, while Democrats in the state could be emboldened by the lack of an incumbent, which typically makes a seat easier to flip.