COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Pilloried by negative attacks and lagging in funding and some polls, former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland began airing the first television ads of his campaign Wednesday against Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.
The multimillion-dollar ad buy is airing in markets across Ohio. The 60-second spot focuses on Strickland’s hardscrabble childhood in Appalachian Ohio, his blue-collar roots and the campaign’s working-class focus.
“Growing up his family lost a house in a flood, and a second to a fire,” an announcer says. “Ted Strickland learned early in life what one bad break, what one missed paycheck can do to a family.”
The spots detail several policy changes Strickland says he would support as senator, including the creation of an infrastructure bank, a middle-class tax cut, and a temporary moratorium on future trade deals as the impacts on American jobs are studied.
The ads skirt his four years as governor, a target of anti-Strickland ads in the millions of dollars. Leading the state during a national recession, Strickland presided over deep budget cuts and about 350,000 job losses.
Anti-Portman ads also are filling Ohio airwaves in one of 2016’s most expensive election contests. Those are mostly funded by outside groups allied with Strickland.
Portman’s campaign said the new ads’ message that Strickland represents “Ohio Heart and Soul” ignores his time at a Washington, D.C.-based liberal policy think tank after losing re-election in 2010.
Michawn Rich, a campaign spokeswoman for Portman, called it “a desperate move” by the Strickland campaign to jump ahead of its previously announced ad schedule, noting the timing follows his loss of several key union endorsements to Portman.
“After a brutal month of lost union endorsements and criticism from their own party, the Strickland campaign is panicking and spending money they don’t have on a 60-second biographical ad that conveniently fails to mention Ted’s disastrous time as governor,” she said.
Portman’s is one of the best-funded Senate campaigns in the nation, with $13.2 million in the bank at the end of June, compared to Strickland’s $3.8 million.
In other campaign news Wednesday, Strickland issued an apology after his remarks to a labor group went public that appeared to celebrate the death of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
In audio of an appearance Monday before the AFL-CIO in Cleveland, he is heard saying he didn’t “wish anyone ill” but Scalia’s death “happened at a good time” for union workers. The crowd laughed.
Scalia’s son, Christopher, tweeted: “Stay classy, @Ted_Strickland and you ghouls giggling along.”
Strickland issued a statement saying the remark was insensitive “and I apologize.”
The high court deadlocked four times after Scalia’s death, including in a major union case over a nearly four-decade-old practice that lets public-sector unions collect fees from non-members to cover collective bargaining costs.
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