Back in 2013, Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced that he was reversing his longstanding opposition to marriage equality and explained that this development was spurred by the fact that one of his children is gay.
Predictably, that news did not sit well with anti-gay activists in Portman’s home state of Ohio, who immediately blasted Portman for the shift. Nobody was more outraged than Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values, who urged Portman to put his son into ex-gay therapy and vowed to work to defeat Portman if he ran for re-election in 2016:
Burress—whose group is the Ohio affiliate of the Family Research Council and of Focus on the Family’s political arm Citizenlink—predicted that Portman will lose his race for reelection because of his marriage equality support: “I find this rather amusing, he stands no chance whatsoever. He’s seen his numbers, he knows what his numbers are and so do we. He is basically lost, he’s not even going to hold his own seat in ‘16.”
“People will vote but they just will not vote for somebody who’s wrong on these nonnegotiable issues. If they’re wrong on life, marriage or religious freedom, they’ll go to the polls and vote but they just won’t vote for them,” he said. “I have been saying this and screaming it from the treetops: If Rob Portman decides to run in the primary in 2016, he is on the ballot in 2016, Ohio will again have two Democratic senators. This is not our fault, this is his fault if we lose this seat.”
When Portman announced that he was seeking re-election, Burress issued a press release declaring that “Senator Portman has alienated conservatives and is very likely to lose in 2016 because the conservative base will not vote for him. Senator Portman should step down before the 2016 election so that conservatives can support a pro-life/pro-natural marriage candidate.”
Burress also was part of an effort featuring “conservatives from all 88 counties [in Ohio] who are pro-life and pro-natural marriage [who] are joining their voices in opposition to Senator Portman’s attempt to be re-elected.” He also declared that “there are three non-negotiables for social conservatives—life, marriage and religious liberty. On my scorecard Portman scores a ‘D’ on life, ‘F’ on marriage and ‘F’ on religious liberty. Portman no longer deserves our support.”
Despite all of Burress’ bluster, Portman easily won the Republican primary back in March and now that the general election is approaching, Burress has predictably changed his tune and is now saying that Portman’s Democratic opponent, Ted Strickland, is so bad that Portman must be re-elected so that President Obama cannot use his final days in office to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court:
“Ted Strickland was a horrible governor,” Burress insists. “He left it in tremendous financial problems. And so the fact that Portman is winning is not because of Portman – this is just a message that Strickland is so bad.”
Burress also maintains it is essential that the Republicans hold on to the Senate – regardless of who is elected president.
“The Senate takes its seat before the president does,” the conservative leader pointed out. “So if the Senate was to go to the Democrats, President Obama would have about 15 days to appoint the position to the U.S. Supreme Court. It would give them a five vote majority. So it is very important that we keep the Senate.”