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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.

1 hour ago - Health

Pfizer-BioNTech: Booster doses more effective at blocking Omicron

Prepared doses of the BioNtech-Pfizer Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Germany on Dec. 7. Photo: Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that two doses of their COVID-19 vaccine were significantly less effective at neutralizing the Omicron variant in early lab tests, but a three-dose regimen was more effective.

Why it matters: Omicron, which has been labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization after being identified by scientists in South Africa last month, has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines against this specific new form of coronavirus.

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Biden unveils "Building a Better America" branding

President Biden speaks on infrastructure while visiting a bridge in Woodstock, N.H., last month. Photo: John Tully/Getty Images

President Biden today launched a new website and unveiled bold new branding as part of a nationwide tour to sell the benefits of his infrastructure package.

Why it matters: The White House says passage of the new law shows the ability to "forge bipartisan consensus and prove our democracy can deliver big wins" even in these toxic times.