U.S. senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a pro–marriage equality Republican who has a gay son, says he has decided against seeking his party’s 2016 presidential nomination.
Portman issued a statement early today saying he prefers to stay in the Senate, ABC News reports. “With the new Republican majority, I see a real opportunity over the next two years to break the gridlock in Washington and actually get things done to help Ohioans and all Americans,” he said. “That’s where I believe I can play the most constructive role. I don’t think I can run for president and be an effective senator at the same time.”
Portman had told ABC’s Jonathan Karl this fall he was considering a presidential run. The antigay National Organization for Marriage quickly announced its intention to oppose Portman because of his marriage equality stance.
“Rob Portman can forget about getting elected President of the United States,” NOM president Brian Brown said in a blog post last month. “If he runs we will make sure that GOP primary voters are aware of his desire to redefine marriage and his willingness to see federal judges set aside the votes of 50 million Americans who enacted marriage amendments across the country because his son is gay. Rob Portman’s son has a right to live as he chooses, but that does not give his father the right to redefine marriage.”
In 2013, Portman became the first Senate Republican to support marriage equality, and he said his “change of heart” occurred because his son Will had come out as gay. Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have since joined him on the pro-equality side.
Portman, first elected to the Senate in 2010, said he plans to seek another term. “While I appreciate the encouragement I have received from many to run for president, my focus will remain on Ohio and running for re-election to the Senate in 2016,” he said in today’s statement, according to ABC. “I look forward to formally announcing my re-election campaign in the new year.”
He can expect NOM’s opposition in that pursuit too. “The people of Ohio deserve a US Senator who respects their votes for marriage,” Brown said in his November post. “We hope that Portman faces a stiff challenge in the Republican primary from a candidate who will proudly stand for marriage. We intend to oppose Sen. Portman for reelection, and if he survives a primary challenge we will urge Republicans and Independents to refuse to vote for him in the General Election.”