Heard on the Hill

Sen. Rob Portman promotes Kevin Smith to chief of staff

Mark Isakowitz will be returning to the private sector

Kevin Smith, right, seen here with MLB Hall of Fame outfielder Lou Brock, is being promoted to chief of staff to Sen. Rob Portman. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Rob Portman has a new chief of staff.

The Ohio Republican is elevating Kevin Smith, his deputy chief of staff and communications director, to the top job in his Senate office. Smith has worked for Portman for about three years and has been a familiar face on Capitol Hill, having previously served as communications director to Speaker John A. Boehner.

“Kevin is one of the most widely-respected Capitol Hill professionals and I have come to rely on his strategic insights, policy knowledge and management skills since he joined Team Portman from Speaker Boehner’s office in 2016,” Portman said in a statement. “He will do a great job running our operations and helping me get things done for the people of Ohio.”

Smith is succeeding Mark Isakowitz, a former longtime lobbyist and Ohio native who returned to the Capitol in January 2015 to become chief of staff to Portman.

“I’m very grateful that Mark chose to leave the private sector and join me in public service in 2014. He has been instrumental in our efforts to get things done for Ohio, whether it was passing tax reform, combating the opioid crisis, and much more. He will be truly missed by me and our team,” Portman said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call.

Isakowitz is leaving to become a vice president at Google, heading up the tech giant's government affairs and public policy in the United States and Canada.

“While I will miss working with Senator Portman and his team, I am very excited to join a company that is constantly innovating, creating opportunity, and helping the American economy grow. I look forward to working with policymakers and others to help promote responsible innovation and the internet economy,” he said in a statement.

With Smith further expanding his portfolio as chief of staff, Ohio native Emily Benavides will become the communications director. She has worked in Portman’s press operation since joining the team after working as the traveling press secretary for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during the 2016 presidential campaign.

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