Ex-Bush Administration Official Vies With Ohio’s Jewish Lieut. Governor for Senate

Rob Portman (R) and Lee Fisher (D)
Rob Portman (R) and Lee Fisher (D)

Published September 14, 2010.
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Republican Portman led Fisher by 50% to 37% in a Reuters/Ipsos poll of 600 registered voters, including 440 who said they were likely to vote, released September 28. The poll had a 4% margin of error.

A September 14 CNN/Time Poll of likely voters gave Republican Rob Portman 52% of the vote, leading Democrat Lee Fisher’s 41% by 11 percentage points. There was a 3 percentage-point margin of error. A poll from September 6 conducted by the Columbus Dispatch gave Portman 50% over Fisher’s 37%, with a 2.2 percentage-point margin of error. The winner will succeed Republican Sen. George Voinovich, who is retiring.


Lee Fisher
Party: Democrat
Age: 59
Religion: Jewish

Shortly after graduating from Case Western Reserve University law school, Fisher began campaigning for a seat in Ohio’s state legislature. Ten years later, in 1990, he was elected state attorney general. After that, he ran a human services organization, before he was tapped to run for Ohio’s lieutenant governor on Ted Strickland’s winning ticket.

Rob Portman
Party: Republican
Age: 54
Religion: Methodist

In 1989, this Michigan Law School graduate served on George H.W. Bush’s Associate White House Counsel before directing the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. After a two-year stint as partner in GH&R, a Cincinnati law firm, he was elected to the House, where he served until George W. Bush appointed him as U.S. Trade Representative. In 2006, Bush appointed him to head the White House Office of Management and Budget. He resigned in 2007, saying he wanted more time with his family.



Portman says the U.S. should defer to Israel on “whether, when, how, where or under what circumstances a Palestinian state or homeland should be established.” He supports Israel’s right to self-defense in areas including the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights. AIPAC, the pro-Israel Washington lobby, lauded Portman for his work as U.S. Trade Representative, specifically for pushing against the Arab League’s Israel boycott.

Fisher “back[s] the Obama Administration efforts to strongly support the security of Israel,” according to his campaign site. He told a Jewish group there can be no “moral equivalency” between terrorists who target civilians and use them as human shields and “the legitimate military defensive action that Israel seeks to end these attacks.” Fisher has close ties with pro-Israel groups, having received $104,850 from the pro-Israel political action committees.


Portman says he supports the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act and would push it through the Senate if elected. He would also support divestment legislation and further economic sanctions. He has called for strengthening sanctions against Iran and mentioned the need to “keep the military option on the table.”

Fisher has said it is a priority to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and that a military strike of Iran by the U.S. or Israel is an option but “a last resort.”


Portman voted to reauthorize the Iraq war in 2002, and now says he stands by that vote. He has criticized the Obama administration for alienating Afghan President Hamid Karzai and criticized Obama’s withdrawal timetable in Afghanistan, since it lays out a timeline for enemies.

Fisher says he supports Obama’s plan to “responsibly end the war in Iraq and defeat al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks around the world,” according to his campaign site, though he says the U.S. should have never invaded Iraq—and that military energy should focus on training new Afghan forces. He disagreed with the latest troop surge in Afghanistan, since he thought it wasn’t worth the risk.

Health Care and Social Security

Portman did not vote for the health care bill, and wants it repealed. He favors malpractice reform and interstate health insurance. Portman voted to raise 401(k) limits and reduce Social Security tax payments and earnings.

Fisher supports the public option and maintains the bill did not go far enough. He opposes Medicare-based pay to medical professionals. Both Portman and Fisher say they want to strengthen Social Security (though Fisher says his opponent would endanger it).


Portman is against the practice of abortion, but not absolutely: he makes exceptions for rape, incest, and the mother’s life. He voted yes on a partial-birth abortion ban with the exception of saving a mother’s life.

Fisher is pro-abortion rights and says he is committed to upholding Roe v. Wade. In the Ohio legislature, Fisher sponsored a resolution “deploring acts of violence against reproductive health care facilities,” and later disparaged the health care bill’s Stupak amendment, deeming it “discriminatory language far beyond existing law.”

Gay Marriage

On a survey, Portman wrote that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Portman voted to support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Fisher, who previously said he had “questions” about gay marriage, says he now supports it. According to a campaign statement, “The government should be focused on creating jobs, lowering health care costs and moving us to alternative energy, instead of trying to stop individuals who want to be in a committed relationship and take responsibility for each other.”

Islamic Center

Portman opposes the Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero, and voiced support for New York State Governor David Paterson’s offer to find an alternative site for it. He maintains that it’s not a question of right, rather one of respect.

Fisher has taken the Obama line: touting religious freedom while withholding his explicit endorsement of the plan.

The Campaign

Lee Irwin Fisher (D)

Last Report: June 30, 2010

Rob Portman (R)

Last Report: June 30, 2010

Source: OpenSecrets.org


About 149,000 Jews live in Ohio, constituting 1.30% of the population. But Cleveland democratic consultant Gerald Austin told the Cleveland Jewish news that he doesn’t see Fisher’s Judaism helping his candidacy, since most Jews already share his liberal views.

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