Acton steps down for Senate bid

Former Ohio Health Director leaves nonprofit, exploring candidacy options

By Andrew Zerman, Staff Writer
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Though no one has officially announced their candidacy for the 2022 vacancy yet, Acton is thought to be one of many Democrats who might entertain the idea. The New York Times reported that Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, has also expressed interest in filling the vacancy left by Sen. Portman, R-Ohio. 

Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, will not be running for reelection, citing “ongoing divide between parties” as a primary reason for his retirement. This expands the field of potential candidates for his Senate seat, and among the list of potential candidates is former Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton.

Acton, who was appointed as health director, has not yet run for any elected positions. If she opts to run for Portman’s seat, Acton will run as a Democrat. 

Current Ohio Governor Mike DeWine declined to speak about Acton’s upcoming candidacy, stating to ABC that he “is going to stay out of Democrat primaries.” 

According to ABC, it is anticipated that the Democratic primaries could feature as many as a few dozen candidates. Tim Ryan, a 2020 presidential candidate and a representative for Ohio’s 13th district, has also expressed interest in the senatorial Democratic primary, a New York Times source reports.

Ohio is one of five states that has both a Republican and a Democratic senator. A Democratic victory in 2022 could whittle that down to four and hamper Republicans’ hopes of taking back the Senate in the midterms. A Republican victory in 2022 would continue the bipartisan pair of Senators that Ohio has had in Congress for over 15 years.

Ohio has acted as a majority Republican state in recent years, leaning red in the last two presidential elections. 

The state also has a Republican majority state legislature, Republican majority federal legislature and a Republican governor. 

Despite this, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, was able to win another six year term in 2018. Ohio Democrats hope to repeat that victory with the 2022 Senate elections.

Acton served as the health director when the COVID-19 pandemic started to take shape in Ohio. 

Despite being on opposite sides of the political spectrum, she and DeWine were praised by numerous outlets such as Time Magazine and CNN for their early shutdown recommendations that set a precedent for many states to follow. 

Acton stepped down as the health director in June 2020, shortly after the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate attempted to pass legislation that would curb her powers to enact health orders. The bills have since gone to the desk of DeWine, but were unsuccessful.

Acton was involved in The Columbus Foundation until earlier this month, a nonprofit program which is described by The Columbus Dispatch as “an initiative focused on building community, kindness and goodwill.” 

Acton released a statement announcing her retirement from her job at The Columbus Foundation, stating that “Many Ohioans have shared with me their concerns and daily challenges that they face. They have expressed a need for a new approach that can help them and their communities thrive.” 

“I am humbled by the outpouring of interest and support. For that reason, I am stepping down from my role in The Columbus Foundation in order to carefully consider how I can best be of service (to Ohioans) at this crucial time,” Acton added.

Democratic and Republican primaries are scheduled to take place in May 2022. As of right now, no individual has announced their senatorial candidacy. Many people, however, have been exploring the possibility of running, including Acton.