March 11, 2021

CLEVELAND, Ohio – An organization aimed at recruiting candidates from STEM backgrounds to run for office is kicking off a campaign in Ohio to draft former Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton to run for U.S. Senate.

The 314 Action Fund is launching a petition site at to encourage Acton to get into the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. Acton, who rose to fame as one of the faces of the early coronavirus response in Ohio, has said she is considering a Democratic run for the seat.

Josh Morrow, executive director of 314 Action, said Acton’s personal background coming from an impoverished family in Youngstown to become the state’s leading public health professional combined with her national profile as one of the early leaders on the coronavirus response made her an ideal candidate for the group.

“Her personal story with her professional background makes her a formidable candidate,” he said. “What we like about Ohio is someone like Amy kind of transcends politics. She’s not like someone the Democrats have run in years past.”

Morrow said the goal of the campaign was to show Acton she would have access to a nationwide network of grassroots supporters and donors. The group would alsoraise money for independent expenditures to support Acton in the primary race.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine appointed Acton, a Democrat, to lead the Ohio Department of Health in 2019. The ODH director isn’t normally a household name, but Acton became one of the early stars of the coronavirus pandemic, known for her blunt assessment of the matter and quick response to the outbreak, earning her praise both in Ohio and nationally.

Following DeWine’s decision to rapidly reopen the state, Acton resigned in July 2020 and joined the Columbus Foundation. She resigned in February after confirming she was considering a bid for Senate.

A spokesman for Acton declined to comment.

The 314 Action Fund – named for the first three digits of pi, 3.14 – was founded by Shaughnessy Naughton, a Pennsylvania chemist who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2014. Naughton felt she didn’t have the same access to resources as traditional political candidates who often come from the legal or business sector. She founded 314 Action to focus on supporting candidates from the STEM careers – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – though has also branched out to the medical field.

“We recruit candidates at all levels of government,” Morrow said. “Not just federal, but all the way down to school board. We work with them in the same way that Emily’s List and the (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) work with these candidates and then end up spending on behalf of them in primaries.”

Unlike many political groups, 314 Action is heavily involved in primaries. Morrow said it does so because STEM candidates often don’t have the political resources to make it to the general election without assistance.

The group has grown rapidly since its inception. Morrow said in 2018, their first full cycle, it had a network of 40,000 members and spent $5.5 million. The group has since grown to a network of 6 million members and spent close to $30 million in 2020, including on the successful campaigns of Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, a former astronaut, and Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper, a geologist.

Morrow said the group has a goal of spending $50 million this cycle, including in Ohio if it successfully helps draft Acton to run.

So far, no Democrats have entered the Senate race, though Acton as well as Rep. Tim Ryan, Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes and Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce have all expressed an interest.

Two Republicans, former Treasurer Josh Mandel and former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken, have formally announced, with Reps. Steve Stivers of Columbus and Bill Johnson of Marietta, Cleveland businessmen Bernie Moreno and Mike Gibbons and TV/radio personality and political commentator Geraldo Rivera all mulling a bid.

Read on