Facing Another Cancer Fight, Portune Won't Run for Reelection to Hamilton County Commission

When first elected in 2000, Hamilton County Commission member Todd Portune was the first Democrat to win a seat on the board in 35 years.

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Hamilton County Commission member Todd Portune - Hailey Bollinger
Hailey Bollinger
Hamilton County Commission member Todd Portune

Hamilton County Commission member Todd Portune won't run for reelection next year as he battles cancer again, he announced today at a news conference.

Portune, a Democrat and former president of the commission, has long battled health challenges during his five terms on the board. Over the past two decades, the 61-year-old has powered through bouts with cancer that included the amputation of part of his left leg and spinal issues. Now, however, he says it is time to retire. 

"The fact of the matter is chemotherapy has not worked and my cancer has spread," he said today. "And so having learned that I’m now in a spot where I’ve got the biggest fight of my life ahead of me, that’s not going to allow me to do the things I want to do the same way I want to do them.”

Prior to his stint on the county commission, Portune served eight years on Cincinnati City Council beginning with an appointment in 1993 and continuing through four reelections. He has also chaired or been president of a number of other governmental bodies, including the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District, the Hamilton County Homeland Security Commission, the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments and more.

Portune first won election to the commission in 2000, when he was the first Democrat in 35 years to grab a seat on the county commission. Times have changed since then — he now serves with two other Democrats, Commission President Denise Driehaus and Stephanie Summerow Dumas. 

During his time on the board, he has pushed to trim the county's budget during lean years while at times dueling with the Cincinnati Bengals over the county's stadium deal with the team. He also helped find funding for Cradle Cincinnati, an effort launched in 2012 to fight the county's high infant mortality rate. 

Portune faced a challenge from Republican Andy Black this time around. It is likely his announcement today will open up the field to other Democratic and Republican hopefuls.

“Hamilton County has become a reliably blue county, in both local and statewide elections, and the Democrat who started it all was Todd Portune, running a courageous and gutsy race to win a county commission seat in 2000," the Ohio Democratic Party said in a statement. "Ever since, he’s been a mentor to an entire generation of Hamilton County Democrats, blazing the path for others to succeed. I was fortunate to be one of the beneficiaries of his generous support, wise guidance and warm friendship."

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley also lauded Portune.

“In addition to improving our community in thousands of ways, the eternal values of human rights Commissioner Portune has fought for will be the most important and enduring of his legacy," Cranley said in a statement. "He fought for gay rights before it was popular, against police brutality before it was popular, for disability inclusion before it was popular, for harm reduction and addiction help before it was popular, for all minorities and for those who had no voice. That’s the legacy his kids will know and I will trumpet. It’s the legacy that has inspired all of us, myself included.”

Portune's announcement today was emotional as he reflected on retiring from a job he relishes and his continuing fight with cancer. 

“There’s no job that I love more than the job I have now,” he said. “It’s what I am, it’s what I’ve been about.”

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