COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio Democrat Ted Strickland plans to jump into the U.S. Senate race against Republican Rob Portman, adding a formidable contender with statewide name recognition to the 2016 contest, a Democrat with knowledge of Strickland’s plans said Tuesday.
The person was not authorized to release the information and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Strickland scheduled a Wednesday morning announcement.
Strickland joins 30-year-old Cincinnati councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, a virtual unknown, in seeking the Democratic nomination, which he would have to win to face Portman next year.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, another potential contender, stepped aside earlier this month and Strickland’s involvement is likely to prompt other Democrats to stay out as well.
Strickland served a dozen years in Congress in the 1990s. His one-term governorship ended in 2010 with a loss to Republican John Kasich.
After leaving the governor’s office, the ordained Methodist minister from Appalachia worked as counselor to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C. He faced almost daily attacks over his involvement there, with pro-coal and pro-gun rights groups that previously endorsed him complaining that the center has taken stances against their causes.
Sittenfeld admires Strickland “but is focused on his own campaign,” according to campaign manager Ramsey Reid. The Portman campaign declined comment until after an official announcement, said spokeswoman Caitlin Conant.
News of Strickland’s plans emerged as Kasich prepared to give his annual State of the State speech in Wilmington, Ohio, a city battered by the recession that helped unseat Strickland as the state experienced double-digit unemployment.
Kasich has pointed to rebounds by the city as evidence of Ohio’s turnaround since he took office.
Early signs are that the race could be long, loud and expensive.
Last week, a super PAC capable of raising unlimited donations was launched to help Portman as his Ohio race for re-election heats up. Barry Bennett, campaign manager for the Fighting for Ohio Fund, has said it aims to raise $5 million to $10 million for Portman independently of his campaign committee.
Earlier this month, news that the Buckeye Firearms Association was questioning Strickland on gun rights, one of his strongest issues with swing voters in the closely divided state, was redistributed by the Republican National Senatorial Committee and the Ohio Republican Party.
The committee has also drawn attention to Ohio Coal Association criticism that Strickland’s policy stances had turned unfriendly to an industry the Appalachian native long supported.
Republicans took control of the Senate last year but remain six votes short of the 60-seat majority needed to advance most legislation. Ohio’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is up for re-election in 2018.
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