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Government & Politics
2018 was a big election year in Ohio. Republicans held onto all five statewide executive offices including governor and super majorities in both the Ohio House and Senate. But there were a few bright spots for Democrats, among them the reelection of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and the election of two Democrats to the Ohio Supreme Court.With election 2018 over, the focus now shifts to governing. Stay connected with the latest on politics, policies and people making the decisions at all levels affecting your lives.

Democratic Senate Hopefuls Have One More Week to Make Their Case

photo of P.G. Sittenfeld
KAREN KASLER
/
STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

The results of the Ohio primary should be known next Tuesday.  And while a lot of attention has been focused on the presidential races, there’s a fight for the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Republican Rob Portman for the U.S. Senate in this fall’s general election.

For months, polls have shown the race is all but locked up for 74-year-old former Gov. Ted Strickland, who was endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party almost a year ago. That happened though there was another candidate in the contest – P.G. Sittenfeld, a 31-year- old city councilman from Cincinnati.

Since then, the Strickland campaign has been low-key, while Sittenfeld has been relentless.

“For Ted Strickland to duck and dodge every single debate and not want to be on the same stage as me – honestly, it’s not an insult to me,” Sittenfeld said in a sit-down interview for “The State of Ohio."

“What it is is an insult to is the democratic process and to voters all across Ohio.”

photo of ted
Credit KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU
Former Gov. Ted Strickland

Strickland has turned down invitations and calls to debate, saying he’s concerned about public disagreements turning into a costly defeat for Democrats in the fall. And he said while he’ll be happy to debate incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman, he’s focused on smaller group events across the state for now.

“I am working really hard. I’m not taking this for granted. I’m trying to earn the votes of the people,” Strickland said in his interview for “The State of Ohio."

“And so I am not debating my two Democratic opponents because I don’t want to fight with my Democratic friends.”

The Republican Choice?
But Strickland appears to be the favored candidate for Republicans, who talk up John Kasich’s ejection of Strickland from the governor’s office in 2010. And Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges has repeatedly said he would pay Strickland’s filing fees so he could run against Portman.

Sittenfeld said that’s exactly why he should be the nominee – he brings a clean slate and new ideas.

“I’ve said all around the state – Ted Strickland is a good man, and I have genuine appreciation for his past service to the state,” Sittenfeld said. But he adds: “The Republicans have a playbook that they’ve used against Ted before. They’re ready to use the same narrative again. I don’t think it’s a fair narrative, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to use it. Let’s as Democrats look to the future.”

There are definitely a lot of years between Sittenfeld and Strickland. But Strickland said new ideas aren’t confined only to younger candidates, and with him, those ideas come with experience – which Sittenfeld doesn’t have.

I don’t think he has earned the opportunity to be elected the US Senator from Ohio. I’ve been very clear about that,” Strickland said. “Listen, if I didn’t think I was the best person, I shouldn’t be running. I do think I’m the best person. I think I’m more qualified than he is.”

On the Issues
Both candidates support abortion rights, increasing the minimum wage and overtime pay and cutting higher education debt. And they oppose the Citizens United campaign finance decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

They also blast Rob Portman on trade deals and the environment. But they diverge on some issues, and have a real disagreement with each other on gun control. Sittenfeld disputes Strickland’s claims that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings persuaded him toward stronger gun control measures. Strickland, who had talked up his A rating with the National Rifle Association, said he wants common sense regulations, and that “reasonable people change over the course of their lives.”

A Third Challenger

Kelli Prather
Credit THE CITY CLUB OF CLEVELAND
Kelli Prather

There is a third contender in the race – Kelli Prather, an occupational therapist from Cincinnati who says she’s been involved in political and civic activism for years. Prather said the sparring between her opponents demonstrates the problem that got her into the race.

“It’s basically indicative of how elected officials carry on in Congress today,” Prather said. “The reason we don’t have the progress, the reason that our nation is in the state of turmoil that it’s in is because we have elected officials who can’t even agree to disagree.”

Common Ground
One thing all the candidates can agree on – this will likely be one of the most expensive U.S. Senate races in Ohio and U.S. history. Portman has already raised millions, and Democrats are likely to pour money into winning the seat, especially if there’s dissension among Republicans over their presidential nominee.