Jan 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats weigh "Dr. Fauci of Ohio" in Senate race

Dr. Amy Acton is seen in a handout photo.

Amy Acton. Photo: Public Domain

Some Democrats are looking to a political outsider described as the "Dr. Fauci of Ohio" to replace Rob Portman in the U.S. Senate.

Why it matters: Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health, gained a grassroots following last year when she briefed Ohioans about the state of the coronavirus. Her celebrity could help in a Republican state, and against potential GOP rivals such as Rep. Jim Jordan.

Driving the news: Portman, a Republican, announced Monday he will not run for a third term in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."

  • There's early enthusiasm among Democrats to nominate a woman and to push Rep. Tim Ryan to instead run against Gov. Mike DeWine.
  • Connie Schultz, whose husband, Democrat Sherrod Brown, is the other senator from Ohio, called Acton "smart and tough," and tweeted Monday: "You can stop texting me only men's names for the Democratic candidate. Ohio may have other plans."

Background: Historically, open seats are more competitive, and both parties' primaries are expected to be crowded.

  • Acton quickly became an unlikely icon to Ohioans, praised for her poise and compassion during one of the most distressing times for the country.
  • Something she said at one of her daily public health updates — "I am not afraid; I am determined." — was emblazoned on T-shirts.
  • Fans launched a "Dr. Amy Acton Fan Club" on Facebook, and it's since attracted over 124,000 people — twice the size of Acton's hometown of Youngstown.

What they're saying: "Sometimes I feel I don't deserve all this attention I'm getting," Acton said last March.

  • She could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Her employer, the Columbus Foundation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
  • Cleveland.com, citing its own sources, reported Acton is "considering" a run.

Ohio is a challenging state for Democrats. Donald Trump won the state by about 8 points in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.

  • Some consultants have compared a potential Senate contest between Acton and Jordan to the high-spending race in South Carolina last fall between Democrat Jaime Harrison and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Go deeper