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State Rep. Bob Hagan Says He’ll Run Against Portman in 2016

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 5:09 PM

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The vote in the U.S. Senate on background checks for gun purchases so infuriated one Ohio state representative that he’s announced his candidacy for the Senate – three years before the vote. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler has details.

Democratic State Rep. Bob Hagan of Youngstown says he has disagreed with Republican U.S Senator Rob Portman on changes to collective bargaining laws, on environmental issues and on same sex marriage—before Portman’s headline-making change of heart.

But it was Portman’s vote against the measure to require tighter background checks on gun buyers that Hagan says made him decide to challenge Portman in the 2016 election.

HAGAN: “I’m going to be the hair shirt of his campaign. I’m going to follow wherever he is and make him itch and answer the questions. Why did he ignore the public—like, by the way, most of those senators have been doing in the U.S. Senate for way too long. They’ve been beholden to too many lobbyists, and I’m going to take them on because of that.”

Hagan says this isn’t a stunt—he’s been considering other offices, including Congressman Tim Ryan’s seat if Ryan had decided to run for the Democratic nomination for governor next year.

In many ways, Hagan seems an unlikely choice as a U.S. Senate candidate. He has a long history in the Statehouse, but has never run statewide. He is unabashedly liberal, enjoying strong support from unions and Democratic groups. And because he’s been in a safe district for many years, he hasn’t had to raise much money.

But Ohio Democratic Party Chair Chris Redfern, Hagan’s colleague in the Ohio House, stands behind him.

REDFERN: “Bob Hagan can win anywhere. If you take the truth to the people of this state, you’re going to win. Sherrod Brown proved it. You know, Barack Obama proved it.”

In his weekly conference call with reporters, Rob Portman said he voted against the background checks bill because he didn’t feel it would stop future gun violence but might infringe on gun owners’ rights. He was also asked about Hagan’s possible campaign against him based on this vote.

PORTMAN: “For me this isn’t about politics yet. This is about principle and I take that very seriously as do a lot of my constituents. So instead of making this partisan, I’ll be continuing to try to find solutions to gun violence and to this culture of violence.”

Portman says he received what he called a lot more letters from Ohioans against the background checks bill than for it. But a Quinnipiac poll last month showed 90 percent of Ohio voters—including 86 percent of households where there is a gun, favored background checks for all gun purchases.

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