U.S. Rep Steve Stivers (R) announced Monday that he’s leaving Congress in May to lead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, likely paving the way for a special election to name his replacement in the lead-up to the 15th district's lines being redrawn.
Stivers, a moderate Republican whose heavily gerrymandered district encompasses much of Athens County, is serving his sixth two-year term in the House of Representatives. He was first elected in 2011 and has faced little electoral challenges from either Democrats or Republicans since redistricting in 2010.
Upon his exit from Congress on May 16, he will serve as president and CEO of the chamber of commerce, a business lobbying group.
“It has been my honor and privilege to serve the people of Ohio’s 15th Congressional District,” Stivers said in a statement. “Throughout my career in public service I’ve worked to promote policies that drive our economy forward, get folks to work, and put our country’s fiscal house in order. That is why I am looking forward to this new opportunity with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, where I can continue my efforts to support free enterprise and economic growth here in Ohio.”
Stivers had previously indicated he was mulling a bid to replace Sen. Rob Portman (R) in the U.S. Senate, and raised a hefty sum of cash in the interim. But the announcement of his resignation puts to rest any potential Senate campaign he may have otherwise considered.
“The best part of this job has been making a positive difference in the lives of constituents,” Stivers said. “I am grateful to the people of Ohio’s 15th Congressional District for putting their trust in me to represent them in the halls of Congress; it has been one of the biggest honors of my life.”
A spokesperson from the chamber of commerce didn’t immediately return a request for comment on Stivers’ announcement.
In the event of a special election, state Rep. Brian Stewart, an Ashville Republican, was the first to officially announce Monday that he's initiating a campaign for Stivers' seat.
"Although I was not looking to run for Congress, in just the past few hours alone I have received strong encouragement from family, constituents and community leaders to consider this next challenge," he said in a news release,
The Democrat who lost to Stivers in the 2020 general election, Joel Newby, said in a text message he’ll take a week to decide whether he intends to pursue office again.
“That’s a long conversation with my family I didn’t think would need to happen until September or October,” he said of his decision whether to run.
Daniel Kilgore, a Democrat who unsuccessfully sought the party’s nomination for the seat in 2020, announced a 2022 campaign in February and has since capitalized on Stivers imminent resignation in an attempt to boost fundraising.
"#OH15 needs bold progressive leadership and new leadership after Steve Stivers announced today that he is resigning from Congress," he wrote in a tweet. "I am prepared to fight for the people of Ohio and the 15th congressional district. We need leadership that understands the issue of today."