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Portman Center opens at the University of Cincinnati

Former senator Rob Portman speaks at the grand opening of the Portman Center for Policy Solutions
Zack Carreon
Former Senator Rob Portman speaks at the grand opening of the Portman Center for Policy Solutions.

The Portman Center for Policy Solutions opened inside Clifton Court Hall at the University of Cincinnati Monday.

The center, named after former Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, will promote bipartisanship and finding a middle ground on issues by hosting speakers, debates, and discussions with people from across the political spectrum. The Portman Center will also provide scholarships, internships, and co-op opportunities for students chosen as Portman Fellows.

While its mission focuses on bipartisanship, Portman says the center isn't about creating more moderates in politics. Instead, he says the space is dedicated to bringing people from all sides of the political spectrum together to hold productive conversations that can lead to the creation of practical policy.

"This isn't about being a moderate. It's not about what your position is. You can be from the far left or far right, but if you have this commitment to working together to find common ground and are willing to practice common sense and civility — and you're willing to have as an objective getting to a result, not as an objective raising money or getting re-elected necessarily or getting on media — but rather actually achieving something for your constitutes, that's what this is about," Portman said during the opening.

RELATED: Portman Center to open at the University of Cincinnati

The former senator told the audience due to the current political climate, it was the perfect time to open a center like this one. As Republicans in Washington battle over who will become the next House Speaker, Portman criticized some members of his own party for putting their name recognition and political careers over the good of the people, though he didn't name anyone specifically.

"In a way, the media rewards the people who are causing the disruption," Portman said. "The week of the tough vote where the Speaker of the House was removed, all three Sunday shows — ABC, NBC, CBS — gave a platform to somebody representing 3.6% of the Republican caucus. And for them that was a good deal right?"

Portman stressed the need to bring back civility to political discussions and believes the center can help do that. He recalled some of his final years in office and how he worked with Democrats to pass important legislation like the 2021 infrastructure deal.

Kyrsten Sinema speaks with Rob Portman at the Portman Center opening
Zack Carreon
Kyrsten Sinema speaks with Rob Portman at the Portman Center opening

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who declared herself an independent last year after being elected as a Democrat, joined Portman in a Q&A session to serve as the center's first speaking event.

The two discussed how they began woking with members from both parties on a Monday evening in early 2021 to develop a "skeleton" for what the infrastructure deal would eventually become. Sinema praised Portman's dedication to the project.

"If Rob hadn't been willing to stay that evening and just start this process, I promise, there would have been no infrastructure law," Sinema said. "It was that commitment to saying, 'No one else thinks this is real, but we're going to do this.' “

RELATED: Rob Portman on why civility and bipartisanship in politics is needed, and how his new center aims to help

University of Cinicnnati President Neville Pinto saya the Portman Center for Policy Solutions will play a crticital role in helping develop students interested in running for public office one day.

Students can now start submitting their applications to become a Portman Fellow through UC's website. The deadline to submit for a spring 2024 fellowship is Nov. 27.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.