Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune announced Thursday he won't seek re-election next year. He told supporters his cancer has returned and a round of chemotherapy treatments has not stopped it from spreading.
He didn't announce plans to retire or resign, but says his health may mean he may not serve the remainder of his current term, which ends on Jan. 1, 2021.
Portune said his health is making it difficult for him to do his job as a county commissioner.
He said he's "got the biggest fight of his life" ahead of him.
"It's clear to me that whether it's undergoing treatments or not, that the physical impact on me in the future is going to be extremely challenging and difficult," Portune said.
Portune has battled severe health problems for more than 20 years. In 1996, doctors discovered tumors on his spine. Treatment for a blood clot in 2002 caused those tumors to hemorrhage, causing partial paralysis. Last year, he had his left leg amputated because of another tumor, and also had precautionary chemotherapy treatments. Earlier this year he fell at his home, causing further injury to his spine and returning him to a wheelchair. His cancer return was confirmed in April, and a series of experimental treatments this summer weren't effective in stopping it from spreading.
Portune, 61, was first elected a county commissioner in November 2000. At that time he was the first Democrat elected to the board in nearly four decades. Portune defeated Republican Bob Bedinghaus largely over voter anger with a lease for the Cincinnati Bengals and cost overruns for the team's Paul Brown Stadium.
Portune was successfully re-elected in 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016.
Prior to being a Hamilton County commissioner, Portune served seven years as a Cincinnati City Council member, having been appointed to a seat in 1993. He also considered running for Ohio governor in 2014, but did not enter the Democratic primary that year.
Portune thanked his frinds and supporters. He said he's had a tremendously blessed life.
"Whatever my future has in store for me from this point forward is good and is a blessing," Portune said. "And I thank God for the privilege to have had the life that I have. And if that means I get to live for a long time, that's great. And if that means that the Lord has something else in mind for me, then I'm comfortable with that too."
The Hamilton County Democratic party will be searching for a candidate to replace Portune.
On the Republican side, Indian Hill businessman Andy Black has announced he's running. There's been talk in the Hamilton County Republican Party of finding a stronger candidate if Portune didn't run.
Candidates have until 4 p.m. on Dec. 18 to file for 2020 primary election, which will be held on Mar. 17.