Strickland, Portman go at it in feisty Senate debate

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland fired off a series of sharp attacks against Sen. Rob Portman in the first of three debates in the race for the U.S. Senate.

>>>Listen to the debate starting at 6 p.m. Oct. 14 on AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO. Stream live here

Strickland, a Democrat trailing Portman in recent polls, spoke of his working-class background and told voters that Portman’s story was one of “wealth, power and privilege.”

He repeatedly hit Portman for supporting trade agreements NAFTA and CAFTA, saying Portman never met a trade deal he didn’t “cheerlead.”

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“You’re my kind of people,” Strickland said, addressing the audience in Youngstown. “I came from working people and the people of this valley are by and large just decent, hard-working people.”

Portman struck back, hitting Strickland for his record as governor, saying the state lost jobs to other states while Strickland was in the governor’s mansion. He said nine of 10 jobs lost in the state during Strickland’s time as governor were lost to other states – not as a result of trade deals.

Strickland defended his time as governor, saying that thanks to the stimulus bill and other Democratic measures, “I gave John Kasich a recovering economy.”

Portman touted his record, saying in Congress he passed 45 bills while Strickland passed zero. He talked about bills aimed at leveling the playing field in trade agreements as well as his bill to fight heroin addiction to portray himself as a lawmaker who reached across the aisle to get things done.

Strickland hit Portman for sending out press releases talking about what he got in the most recent massive federal spending bill, but voting against the bill itself. “He didn’t have the courage to bite the bullet and fight for things he thought were important,” Strickland said.

Portman said as a House member, Strickland cast similar votes.

The two also sparred over their respective presidential nominees. Strickland criticized Portman for supporting Trump for so long. Portman rescinded his endorsement last weekend after Trump’s comments about grabbing women were leaked, but Strickland said Trump has been making outrageous statements for months.

Portman countered that he wondered how Strickland could support Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Portman admitted it was hard for him to not back the party’s nominee because “I am a Republican and I believe that the policy the Republican party has with regard to dealing with the middle class squeeze are the right policies.”

Strickland defended Clinton, calling her “a responsible person,” who will be a good president. “I am proud to support her,” he said.

The debate took place as Strickland’s campaign cancelled all the TV commercials it planned to air from Oct. 24 through Election Day in Cincinnati, Dayton, Youngstown, Toledo and Charleston, W.Va.

Instead, Strickland will focus all his TV advertising on stations in Columbus and Cleveland.

Strickland and Portman will debate two more times — one on Oct. 17 in Columbus and in Cleveland on Oct. 20.