• 59°

Acton exploring 2022 run for U.S. Senate

Former health director leaves nonprofit to consider campaign for Portman seat

COLUMBUS (AP) — Dr. Amy Acton, the former state health director who became the face of Ohio’s early pandemic response, is stepping down from her nonprofit position to “carefully explore” running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate, she said Thursday.

Acton would be vying for a coveted open seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who cited divisive national politics in a decision not to seek reelection next year.

“Many Ohioans have shared with me their concerns and the daily challenges they face,” Acton said in a news statement. “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 at The Columbus Foundation in order to carefully consider how I can best be of service at this crucial time. Whatever my decision, I know with absolute certainty I won’t stop working to provide healing and hope to all Ohioans.”

Acton’s leadership working with DeWine in the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic made her something of a folk hero and role model for Ohio girls. Acton also won national acclaim for her efforts in the first months of the pandemic, while polls in Ohio showed her with strong approval of nearly 60 percent.

Intense backlash among some segments of the political spectrum and concerns about her safety caused Acton to step back from the public spotlight. Protesters, opposed to the shutdowns surrounding the pandemic, showed up on the residential street near Acton’s home in the Columbus suburbs in the weeks before she stepped down.

Democratic insiders say she polls well as a possible statewide contender. Some influential members of the party are urging Acton to run.

Portman’s surprise announcement Jan. 25 that he wouldn’t seek a third term has triggered a dozen or so Ohio politicians to express interest in the 2022 race, and some Democrats are advocating for the party to field a candidate who is a person of color, a woman or both.

Two who were viewed as possible candidates have removed their names from consideration. U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, both Republicans, have said they will not be running for the seat.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican whose southeast Ohio district covers Lawrence County, has also announced that he is considering a run for Senate.