U.S. Sen. Rob Portman rallied local Republicans on Saturday when his campaign rolled through Hillsboro on the first stop of a tour through southern and southeastern Ohio.
About 30 GOP faithful were on hand mid-afternoon at Republican headquarters on West Main Street as Portman discussed his campaign, the Monday night debate between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the economy and the drug problem, a signature issue for Portman.
Shane Wilkin, a county commissioner who is also chair of the local GOP central committee, acted as host for Saturday’s event.
Other officeholders on hand Saturday included sheriff Donnie Barrera, commissioner Jeff Duncan, engineer Dean Otworth and Hillsboro City Council member Dick Donley.
Portman thanked local party officials and volunteers for their efforts on his behalf leading up to the Nov. 8 election. Paulette Donley, chair of the local GOP executive committee, told Portman that while Trump-Pence signs are the most popular item requested by local residents, Portman signs are a close second.
Portman spent about an hour at the headquarters, answering questions and posing for pictures. Later, at Wilkin’s urging, he made a brief stop at an event at the Highland County Historical Society before heading to his next visit in Chillicothe.
In an interview with The Times-Gazette aboard his campaign RV, Portman said he has been gratified with the response as he tours the state, noting that the race between him and his Democratic opponent, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, began with polling showing a close contest, but has lately shown Portman with a double-digit lead, according to polling averages.
Portman has endorsed Trump for president, and agreed that part of Trump’s appeal is his anti-establishment credentials. While he has long been involved in politics and is the incumbent in this campaign, Portman said he feels like he is running a race as a challenger against the former governor.
“We do need reform,” said Portman. But he noted that while most voters are frustrated with the lack of progress on the part of most officeholders, he sees that as a contrast to his own accomplishments.
“We get stuff done,” said Portman, pointing to 50 bills signed into law that he has sponsored or co-sponsored.
Fighting drug abuse has been a leading issue for Portman since his days as a congressman in the 1990s. President Obama recently signed into law the Portman-sponsored Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016.
Last week, Portman introduced the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, aimed at stopping drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from flooding communities.
The bill is designed “to help stop these dangerous synthetic drugs from being shipped through our borders to drug traffickers here in the United States,” according to a press release. An identical version was introduced in the House by Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-12th Dist.).
While Portman was criss-crossing southern Ohio on Saturday, Strickland campaigned across central Ohio, participating in a roundtable discussion on economic issues, visiting an Ohio Together coordinated campaign office, touring Columbus Oktoberfest, and addressing the Ohio Democratic Party’s state convention, according to his campaign website.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.