Angry that Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman opposed a proposal to expand background checks for firearms purchases, state Rep. Robert F. Hagan, a Democrat from Youngs-town, says he will challenge the incumbent in 2016.
“He’s ignored [a large majority] of the public who support background checks, and I’m disappointed with his lack of leadership,” Hagan said.
Hagan added that he plans to be the “hair shirt” of Portman’s campaign, explaining the term means “a shirt that makes him itch, makes him uncomfortable.”
It wasn’t until Portman’s vote Wednesday that Hagan, who is term-limited in the Ohio House at the end of 2014, decided to run.
“I know he’s going to raise money from the NRA — who owns him, and lobbyists,” Hagan said. “He can raise all the money he wants, but I’m going to raise hell.”
Portman joined most fellow Republicans and five Democratic senators in voting against a proposal to expand background checks. Four Republicans supported it. The amendment needed 60 votes to move forward. It was approved 54-46.
Portman’s office declined to comment on Hagan. In a prepared statement Wednesday, Portman said he didn’t support the proposal because he didn’t “believe it would be effective” in preventing shootings such as in Newtown, Conn. It “contains several provisions that would make it difficult for law-abiding Ohioans to exercise their Constitutionally guaranteed rights,” said Portman, adding he supports amendments to improve checks by “strengthening state reporting of individuals who courts have found to be mentally ill.”
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Robert Bennett said Hagan is “more than welcome to” challenge Portman, who he said is doing a good job.