First Portman, Strickland senate debate to be in Youngstown

By David Skolnick

and Marc Kovac


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, the Republican incumbent, and ex-Gov. Ted Strickland, his Democratic challenger, say they are looking forward to debating each other.

The campaigns announced Wednesday the two candidates would debate each other three times before the Nov. 8 election. The first debate will take place in Youngstown on Oct. 14 and is co-sponsored by The Vindicator and 21 WFMJ-TV. The location of the debate hasn’t been determined.

“I’m going to be talking about the record I’m really proud of, including our record of helping the veterans and what we’ve done for Ohio over the last five years and what we intend to do going forward,” Portman said Wednesday at a suburban Columbus VFW post after receiving the endorsement of Ohio Veterans United.

Portman added: “It’s a big contrast to my opponent. He has a bio up right now that doesn’t [talk] about his record because there’s not much there. When he was in the House, literally I can’t find a single bill that he authored or co-authored that became law. I can point to over 40 just in my time in the Senate and many more when I was in the House.”

Strickland told The Vindicator that Portman “is on the wrong side of every issue that is important to Ohioans. He’s on the wrong side of the trade issue. He’s on the wrong side of the minimum-wage issue. He’s on the wrong side of the pay-equity issue. He’s on the wrong side of the student-debt issue. I could go on and on and on because he’s on the side of the rich and powerful, and I’m on the side of working people. That’s the difference. It’s a pretty decent contrast to draw.”

The other debates are: Oct. 17 in Columbus, sponsored by WBNS-10TV and the Columbus Dispatch; and Oct. 20 in Cleveland, sponsored by the Cleveland City Club and Scripps ABC.

In a joint statement Wednesday, Rebecca Pearcey, Strickland’s campaign manager, and Corry Bliss, Portman’s campaign manager, said: “These debates will provide Ohioans the opportunity to learn and evaluate where both candidates stand on the critical issues facing our state and our country. We hope that these debates will help inform voters about the choice they are facing in November in the Senate race, to encourage individuals to participate in our democracy, and will offer an opportunity to hear directly from the candidates.”

They added, “Former Gov. Strickland and Sen. Portman are both looking forward to participating in these debates and the opportunity to share their message with Ohioans.”

“This year’s U.S. Senate race in Ohio is one of the most closely watched in the nation because it is considered a toss-up,” said Vindicator General Manager Mark Brown. “WFMJ and The Vindicator have a long history of hosting political debates and other key events, such as the live Town Hall with President Jimmy Carter. We’re glad to continue that tradition.”

Portman, seeking his second six-year term, is ahead of Strickland by 6.4 percent, according to, a website that aggregates polling data.

The campaigns have agreed to the following format: one-hour debates with 90-second answers, 90-second responses, 30-second rebuttals and two-minute opening and closing statements. There will be no candidate-to-candidate questions.

The campaigns will work with debate hosts and mutually agree on moderators and panelists.

This race, with about $50 million spent by the candidates and their supporters, likely will be the most-expensive Senate campaign in the state’s history and among the most costly in the nation this year.

Asked Wednesday by reporters about Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, Portman said he’s focused on running his own grass-roots campaign in a battle that could determine the balance of power in that chamber.

“We’re doing our own thing, we’re running our own independent campaign,” Portman said. “I don’t focus on the presidential because this is the Senate race. It’s a really important Senate race. I’m asking voters to choose between me and Ted Strickland.”

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