Polls show incumbent Sen. Rob Portman with a large lead, but Ted Strickland, his Democratic opponent, isn’t giving up


By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Despite trailing incumbent U.S. Sen. Rob Portman by double-digits in polls, ex-Gov. Ted Strickland, the Democratic nominee for the position, said, “I haven’t given up.”

With spending by outside special-interest groups at least $40 million against Strickland, he contends: “Sen. Portman’s lead is exclusively due to the money raised against me.”

But Portman, a Republican, said it’s his record of accomplishment, including passing about 45 bills, and Strickland’s record of failure that separates the two candidates.

“If I am given the opportunity to return to the Senate, I will continue to work across the aisle and deliver the results that Ohioans demand from their elected officials,” Portman said.

When Strickland was governor from 2007 to 2011, 90 percent of the 350,000 jobs Ohio lost were to other states, and not other countries, and that was because of Strickland’s failed leadership, Portman said.

Strickland said Ohio lost more jobs than nearly every other state during the Great Recession because of its reliance on manufacturing.

But it was “job-killing trade deals” backed by Portman while in Congress – such as the North American Free Trade Agreement – and while serving in the President George W. Bush administration – notably the Central America Free Trade Agreement – that led to the recession, Strickland said.

Trade deals are needed, Portman said, but “we need to be tougher on enforcement.”

He added: “We ought to be expanding opportunities for our workers and our farmers to be able to sell more of their products overseas. To do that, you need to knock down the barriers overseas to our products.”

Strickland said Portman “is being very dishonest” about being tough on trade.

This was supposed to be one of the most hotly contested Senate races in the country. But with polls showing Portman up by an average of 16 percentage points and Strickland’s political allies canceling $20 million worth of advertising, it appears the incumbent will win re-election.

Portman said he’s “taken a lead” fighting the heroin and opioid abuse issue, sponsoring the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act that expands education and prevention efforts, helps law enforcement reverse overdoses, and increases treatment and recovery programs through an additional $181 million a year in new spending.

“It’s out of control,” Portman said of drug abuse. “Overdoses in Ohio are already higher than they were all of last year, so unfortunately we’re going to see a record.”

The abuse program “is getting worse, not better,” he said. It needs “to be treated like a disease. Like a public health problem.” And, Portman said, that is what he’s done for more than two decades.

Strickland said heroin and opioid abuse affects nearly every family. Strickland said he established a drug prescription task force to tackle this issue when he was governor.

As for Portman, Strickland said, “I have been critical of him because in the omnibus bill there was money for treatment and prevention and he voted against it” while touting the money the bill provided.

Portman said the accusation is “silly and ridiculous” because the funding was part of a last-minute $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill with $700 billion in tax breaks that “literally nobody” read that included “$20 billion in gimmicks,” but he actively lobbied other senators to back it.

On the key local issue of the future of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna, Portman helped secure $9.4 million for an indoor-shooting range and working to get modern C-130J aircraft to the base in order to keep it operational.

Portman also helped get an amendment through Congress to permit the Air Force to use special funding to upgrade aircraft at bases with special missions, such as YARS.

“That’s an important first step,” he said. “Now we’ve got to get them to do it.”

Strickland said he spent time at the base when he was a governor and an area congressman. During past threats to the base, Strickland said he advocated to keep it open.

The two have sparred over Portman’s decision to back fellow Republican Donald Trump for president, only to withdraw that support earlier this month when a 2005 video emerged in which Trump made numerous lewd comments and bragged that he could do anything to women because he’s famous.

Strickland calls Portman’s decision to withdraw support “a political calculation,” while Portman said he was a frequent critic of Trump when he made other outrageous statements and he made an “extraordinary decision” to finally not back his party’s presidential nominee.

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