WARREN - State Rep. Bob Hagan said Thursday he is ''very serious'' about challenging U.S. Sen. Rob Portman in 2016, affirming a statement the Democrat made Wednesday evening on a social media website.
It was Hagan's displeasure with Portman, a Republican, and his joining other Senate Republicans Wednesday to reject a proposal to expand background checks on gun purchases, that led the state representative to declare his candidacy on Facebook.
Portman's vote, Hagan said, ''sent a clear message'' that ''he (Portman) needs to be challenged.''
''I'm not turning back,'' Hagan said, adding he thinks Portman ''turned his back'' on the 90 percent of people who favor tighter gun controls and on the parents who ''suffered the consequences'' of shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.
The provision, known as the Manchin-Toomey amendment, by a vote of 54-46, fell short of the 60 votes it needed to advance.
Portman, in a statement released Wednesday, said he does not believe the legislation ''would be effective in preventing the kind of heartbreaking loss of life'' seen at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut or other recent events elsewhere.
The legislation does contain ''several provisions that would make it more difficult for law-abiding Ohioans to exercise their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights'' and that there are other actions Congress can take to reduce gun-related violence without stepping on the Second Amendment, Portman said.
Some of what Congress can do is to make sure people with mental illness have access to treatment and enforce and improve existing rules ''that limit their ability to threaten themselves and their communities,'' like improving background checks by strengthening state reporting of people who courts have found to be mentally ill, Portman said.
During a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Portman said the issue isn't about politics. ''This is about principle, and I take that very seriously as do a lot of my constituents,'' he said.
''So instead of making this partisan, I'll be continuing to try to find solutions to gun violence and to this culture of violence ... ,'' he said.
Hagan, of Youngstown, who cannot run for another two-year term in the Ohio House because of term limits, said the campaign began Thursday. He said though that gun control is debated issue now, he plans to ''watch everything that he (Portman) does.''