YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Senator Rob Portman has credited the Republican Party’s willingness to address issues important to workers as leading to increased electoral success in Mahoning Valley.
But he still sees Ohio as a whole as a volatile state, he said in a telephone interview, reflecting on his two terms in the Senate.
A Republican in the Cincinnati area, Portman was elected to the Senate in 2010 and was subsequently vacated by the late George Voinovich. He announced in January 2021 that he would not seek a third term. Venture capitalist and author J.D. He defeated Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio D-13 in the general election.
Vance’s path to victory has included victories in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, the traditional Democratic strongholds Ryan has represented for years, but increasingly in recent election cycles. I voted Republican. Statewide, Republicans dominate most elected offices, with the exception of the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Sherrod Brown.
“Ohio is still considered a purple state, not red or blue, but it’s starting to get redder,” Portman said. , always voters, and these independent voters don’t think of themselves as supporters, they tend to vote for that person and that’s why you see these swings.”
When it comes to Silicon Valley itself, voters have historically tended to favor Democrats, but at the same time they tend to be “pretty conservative,” he continued.
Also, when visiting local factories to meet with workers, Portman, creator of the law known as the Equal Playing Fields Act, tends to talk to them about trade issues, suggesting that the workers are making a “big change.” said to be one of Republicans understand the importance of providing a level playing field for workers, especially when it comes to China.
“It’s a different policy position than many Republicans have taken,” he said. “This explains some of Mahoning’s success in the Valley, where there is a lot of heavy industry and many workers who were disadvantaged under trade policy.”
Portman says much of his local impact has to do with showing up to learn what local priorities were and working to help achieve those objectives. In some cases, it has led to “pretty big successes.”
Among them are $10.8 million awarded in 2018 from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Leveraging (or Building) Investments to Leverage Development program to upgrade several streets in downtown Youngstown. There are programs, including the implementation of an automated shuttle service. Portman said he negotiated directly with then-Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to encourage funding for Youngstown.
Youngstown’s grants to Strategy and Sustainability, Health and Manufacturing, Academics and Arts, Housing and Recreation, Technology and Training, or the Smart2 Network will help Portman secure local projects from various federal agencies. It is one of several examples of funds that have been “vested” in Kinnick said. Kinnick is the Executive Director of the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments who led the successful application of the Smart2 project.
Kinnick said the grant will contribute $2,500 to revitalize downtown Youngstown, fund the removal of the Mahoning River dam, build an Excellence Training Center on the Youngstown State University campus, and other economic development projects throughout the region. It has resulted in a million dollar investment.
Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Area Chamber of Commerce, another partner of the Smart2 project, said: “He leveraged his relationship with the Secretary of Transportation to help us coordinate bipartisan support and push our application every step of the way.”
Kinnick also created, gained support for, and passed what is known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, which provides the necessary means to address deficiencies in roads and bridges and upgrade aging infrastructure. I quoted Portman’s work for
Coveillo also described Portman as “the unwavering champion of Youngstown air Reserve Station”. This is his second largest employer in the Valley and helped secure tens of millions of dollars in federal dollars. Over the past eight years, the base’s economic impact has increased from less than $90 million annually to more than $150 million annually.
In recent years, $8.7 million was spent to widen the base’s assault runway in 2021, $8.8 million to update the main gate in 2018, and $9.4 million to upgrade the indoor firing range in 2015. I was.
“I’m always worried about what happens if we don’t keep improving,” Portman said.
Portman also said he was willing to call the company’s CEO from the beginning to encourage him to invest in this area.
“A few [efforts] It works better than others,” he admitted. Efforts to persuade General Motors CEO Mary Barra to keep car production at the Rosetown complex unsuccessful, but the automaker eventually partnered with LG Chem to build Rosetown. Built an Altium Cell factory to manufacture batteries on land adjacent to the factory.
“In general, whenever a member has encountered an issue with the federal government, he and his staff have been most effective in helping our business navigate the system,” said the company. Coviello says.
“Whether it was in Washington DC or Mahoning Valley, his availability was second to none,” agreed Kinnick.
Portman said he was proud of his efforts in three general areas during his two terms in the Senate. One was to promote economic growth by working on regulation, permitting and tax reform.
The second is the Infrastructure Bill, whose provisions include an increase of more than 50% in the funds available for the program formerly known as Build, which will lead to Lordstown’s Smart Logistics Hub. funding, he said.
The third was what he described as “a combination of things to help people,” from helping individuals struggling with drug addiction to helping returning citizens to tackling human trafficking.
Other initiatives he endorsed included Chips and Science Act aimed at supporting the U.S. semiconductor industry. Not only is this law important to national security, but it directly impacted Ohio because of his $20 billion Intel project near Columbus.
“It’s going to be statewide,” Portman said.Intel is funding state-conceived programs for training and research, including partnerships involving YSU.
On the day Portman was being interviewed, he was scheduled to attend a signing ceremony at the White House to honor marriage laws that ensure that states and federal governments recognize valid same-sex marriages. Portman’s son, Will, came out to him and his wife. There was no need to do
“I’ve come to believe that this is not a choice. This is who people are,” he said. “Ignoring it is at least inconsistent with the traditions of my faith.”
The law “gives people in same-sex marriages reassurance that they need to know who they are. [financial or family] He admitted he was disappointed that only 12 of his Republican colleagues voted for the bill. Some told him privately that they agreed and were happy to have the matter resolved.
“By the way, most Americans believe that this issue needs to be resolved. A majority of Americans believe that same-sex marriage should not be illegal. In fact, a majority of Republicans , I believe it based on polls,” he continued. “So the country has moved forward on this issue.”
As a Senator, Portman has seen nearly 200 bills he authored or co-authored enact. This is a record that “means you are willing to work on a bipartisan basis.”
“Our style is to reach out across the aisle and work with the other side,” he said.
Brown, a Democrat and senior senator from Ohio, said he was honored to have worked with Portman for the past 12 years.
“We have worked together to find common ground and serve the people of Ohio and our country. I continued Ohio’s bipartisan tradition of identifying the best candidates to serve in Ohio as a public, U.S. attorney,” he said. “I am grateful that we chose partnership over partisanship and worked closely one after another to reach the people of Ohio, and we have achieved so much. “
Warren-born George Brown, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program and former Aide Portman, held in Niles in 2005 shortly before the future senator was appointed director of the Office of the Budget. I remembered meeting Portman at the annual McKinley Dinner and Washington Administration. What impressed him after meeting Portman and getting to know him over the years was that he never forgot Mahonoine Valley.
“He took the time to learn about the challenges in our area and was always out working to make life better for the people of the Valley,” he said. Dedicated to development, he is an advocate for air force bases, manufacturing, employment and national policies that support valley workers.
“He also understands the importance that education plays in uplifting communities and empowering people to live their God-given potential,” he added.
Portman said he spoke with Vance, who he believed would do a good job representing the state.
“He wants to be the independent voice of Ohio,” he said. “He wants to focus on getting things done that help Ohio.”
Earlier this year, Vance said he believed the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. He said it was because of his attitude toward the border.
“That’s where he got his assignment,” he said. “I think looking back at 2020 is not what people want to do. I think you want to know that I have a plan for the campaign trajectory.”
Portman admitted to leaving with some disappointments in two key areas.
Debt, deficit, and immigration.
“I think it is a problem that the government is overspending. We will have to take bipartisan action, especially when it comes to important but unsustainable qualification programs,” he said. .
He also called what was happening on the southern border “outrageous” and called for a “common sense approach” to stop the flow of people and drugs into the United States.
“I am not against immigration, but I think it should be done through legal and proper channels,” he said.
Portman, a retiring senator and former congressman and U.S. trade representative, has no clear plans for his post-government life beyond returning to Ohio.
“It’s a mistake to make plans while you’re in office. Partly because we’re very busy,” he said, referring to retirement security, vocational training, and “YARS is protected by the National Defense Authorization Act.” “So I’m going to wait and make a decision after the first year,” he said.
Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.