DAYTON, Ohio — Dayton-area Congressman Mike Turner took a step toward entering Ohio’s 2022 U.S. Senate race on Monday by releasing a biographical video and announcing a statewide listening tour.

What You Need To Know

  • Longtime Rep. Mike Turner (R, OH-10) launches listening tour and releases biographical video as he considers running for Ohio’s open U.S. Senate seat

  • Turner has been in Congress since 2003 after serving two terms as Dayton mayor

  • As Ohio Republicans cater to Trump, Turner’s relationship with the former president is fairly complicated

  • If he enters the race, Turner will take part in a competitive GOP primary

“We’re getting a significant amount of pressure to enter this race,” Turner told Spectrum News in a virtual interview on Monday. 

Turner (R, OH-10) has represented the Miami Valley in the U.S. House since 2003. He serves on the House Armed Services and House Intelligence committees and regularly campaigns on helping grow Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which is in his district.

“I think this is going to be about experience,” Turner said. “Ohio has always picked people who they know can go and do the job. The Senate is not a place for amateurs.”

The 2022 Ohio Senate race will be closely watched after Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) unexpectedly announced in January that he wouldn’t run for a third term. 

So far, two Republicans — Josh Mandel and Jane Timken — have entered the race and a long list of other GOP candidates are strongly considering like Turner. On the Democratic side, no candidates have officially jumped in, but Rep. Tim Ryan (D, OH-13) and former Ohio Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton are strongly considering.

Turner, 61, said he wasn’t considering running for Senate before Portman retired.

“I think everyone considered that Rob Portman would probably be in the Senate forever, so it was unexpected when he made his announcement,” Turner said.

He said his statewide listening tour will begin Tuesday.

In the 3-minute video he released Monday, Turner walks through his family’s Appalachian roots, his two terms as mayor of Dayton, and his 10 terms in Congress advocating for national security and foreign policy.

The second half of the video features multiple clips of Turner doing cable news interviews and mentions his defense of former President Trump during Trump’s first impeachment trial. At one point, a clip of Trump complimenting Turner during a rally in Vandalia is featured.

Turner’s relationship with the former president is fairly complicated. 

In July 2019, Turner called a series of tweets Trump made about minority members of Congress “racist” and said Trump “should apologize.”

In September 2019, as House Democrats were inching closer to impeaching Trump for a phone call he had with the president of Ukraine, Turner said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing that the call was “not OK” and that he thought it was “disappointing to the American public when they read the transcript.”

After the U.S. Capitol was attacked Jan. 6 by Trump supporters attempting to overturn the electoral results, Turner released a statement that said, “President Trump is leaving office disgraced and discredited for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.”

Despite those criticisms, Turner voted to acquit Trump in both impeachment cases and blamed Democrats for politicizing the process.

In his video released Monday, Turner appears on-camera after Trump and says, “Thank you for those who’ve encouraged me to seek the United States Senate seat. I have successfully fought for jobs, our communities, our national security, and yes, America first.”

Asked on Monday where he stands today on the former president, Turner said he would “certainly” take Trump’s endorsement.

“I have been a consistent America First supporter,” Turner said. “I think President Trump’s agenda was very important for our country. It helped turn around our country, and I was a strong voice in supporting and in moving that agenda forward. I think this race is going to be about Ohio and what’s important for our country moving forward.”

Of his relationship with Trump, Turner said, “Our views and our political work over the past four years are aligned,” but he added, “I think, though, that we have to make certain that this is about Ohio. This is not a race about one man.”

Turner made news in August 2019 when he came out in support of certain gun control measures after the mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District, which Turner’s daughter was near when it happened.

At the time, Turner said he “will support legislation that prevents the sale of military-style weapons to civilians, a magazine limit, and red-flag legislation. The carnage these military style weapons are able to produce when available to the wrong people is intolerable.”

Gun control legislation has since failed to be passed by the Ohio legislature or by Congress.

Earlier this month in Washington, Turner voted against two background check bills that House Democrats passed.

“Unfortunately, what you’re seeing in Washington is an incredible radical left agenda that is anti-guns,” Turner told Spectrum News. “I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but at the same time, my position is where 60% of the Republican individuals’ position is,” he said, alluding to the fact that nearly every mass shooting shows a similar pattern of someone being a threat still gaining access to a firearm.

“We need to have a national conversation about that and find the answer,” Turner said. “It certainly isn’t the left’s liberal agenda, but it certainly is something that we need to take seriously because this affects our families.”

As he embarks on his statewide listening tour, Turner said he’ll be introducing Ohioans to his record in Congress and will focus on issues like border security and the military.

Christopher Devine, a political science professor at the University of Dayton, said one challenge Turner would face if he jumped into the race would be name recognition and his ability to fundraise.

“I think in a state with 16 members of the House of Representatives and 12 of them being Republicans, for anyone outside of Dayton/the Miami Valley/Mike Turner’s congressional district, I don’t know that they could pick him out of a lineup compared to [Rep.] Bob Latta or [Rep.] Bill Johnson or any of the other members,” Devine said.

Locally, Devine said Turner has cemented a reputation for himself as an advocate of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which is the largest single-site employer in the state and a pillar of the Miami Valley’s economy.

“He has been able to use his long tenure of service here and his association with really the most important local employer and his championing of it, he’s used that to define himself,” Devine said.

Turner said he’s not concerned about being labeled a “career politician” because, he said, "I think people are more concerned about career candidates than people who have made a life of public service. And I think that’s what I bring to the table.”

If he decides to jump into the Senate race, Turner will be facing Republicans, like Mandel and Timken, who are strongly vying for Trump’s support to the point that both have called for  Turner’s U.S. House colleague, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R, OH-16), to resign after voting to impeach Trump for his actions Jan. 6.

“I think that their statements are completely inappropriate,” Turner said when asked what he thought of the situation.