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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

Jan 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

GOP Sen. Rob Portman will not run for re-election, citing "partisan gridlock"

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Monday he will not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."

Why it matters: It's a surprise retirement from a prominent Senate Republican who easily won re-election in 2016 and was expected to do so again in 2022, creating an open Senate seat in a red-leaning swing state.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
8 mins ago - Energy & Environment

IEA analysis charts "narrow" pathway to Paris climate goal

Photovoltaic solar panels at the power plant in La Colle des Mees, Alpes de Haute Provence, southeastern France. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images

The pathway for transforming global energy systems to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 is "narrow but still achievable" and demands unprecedented acceleration away from fossil fuels, an International Energy Agency report published Tuesday concludes.

Why it matters: It provides detailed analysis and estimates of what's needed for a good shot at limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels — the Paris Agreement benchmark for avoiding some of the most damaging effects of climate change.

2 hours ago - World

In photos: Deadly Cyclone Tauktae leaves trail of destruction across India

A police officer helps a public transport driver cross a flooded street due to heavy rain caused by Tropical Cyclone Tauktae in Mumbai, India, on May 17. Photo: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Tropical Cyclone Tauktae killed at least 16 people in India after making landfall in Gujarat Monday, packing 100mph winds, and sweeping across Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, per Reuters.

The big picture: The storm unleashed heavy rains and winds as authorities continued to grapple with surging infection rates and deaths from COVID-19. Over 200,000 people were evacuated from Gujarat, and ports, airports and vaccination centers shut in the state and Mumbai, Reuters reports. Tauktae weakened from a Category 3 storm into a "severe cyclonic storm" Tuesday morning local time.