RIO GRANDE — Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland says he’s not quite ready to give up fighting for all in which he believes.
Giving the “working people of Ohio a chance at having a decent chance to live a middle-class life” is one of the main reasons he cited for entering the race for U.S. Senate, a seat currently held by Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.
Strickland talked about his fight for the middle class, among other things, Thursday night during the Gallia County Democratic Party’s annual Kennedy Day Dinner at Bob Evans Farms Craft Barn.
Strickland, who served as Ohio’s 68th governor from 2007-11, as well as Ohio congressman from 1992-94 and 1996-2006, said many middle-class Ohioans are feeling a squeeze.
“Some of us may aspire to be millionaires and billionaires. Certainly, none of us want to live in poverty,” he said. “I think what most of us – and what most Americans – want is just to be able to live a middle-class life.”
Strickland said “middle-class life” means, to him, being able to live in a decent home, have a decent job with reasonable benefits, sending children to good schools that will prepare them for life and being able to send those children to college without being burdened with what he called “a lifetime of debt.”
Strickland said 70 percent of all the young people who graduate from Ohio’s public colleges and universities leave school with a diploma and an average debt of $30,000.
“To be a middle-class person means you can face your retirement years without fear that you’re going to have to live your last years in poverty because of some illness or some other catastrophic thing that can happen to you. I think that’s what most people aspire to,” he said.
According to Strickland, the middle class in American has been, of the last 30 years, shrinking.
“It’s has become more and more difficult to be a part of the middle class in America. People have worked hard over the last 30 years,” he said. “Productivity has increased, wealth has been created, but unfortunately most of that wealth has been concentrated in the top 1 percent of the richest people in America. That wealth has not been shared with the working people.”
Strickland also took a few shots at his presumed opposition for the U.S. Senate seat — Portman. The former governor must first defeat Cincinnati councilman P.G. Sittenfeld in the primary before he can take on the incumbent senator next fall.
“I understand (Portman) doesn’t spend a lot of time in this part of the state … until recently,” he said.
Strickland said Portman “is a really conservative guy with really good manners.”
“Because he has good manners — and I know him well; he does have good manners — he’s perceived to be a moderate kind of guy. My friends, he’s not moderate in his voting,” he said. “He is a reliable vote for the reactionary conservatives any time they need his vote. He’s the kind of guy who’s always there when you don’t need him.”
Strickland said groups such as the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Chemical Association, Kentucky Congressman Mitch McConnell and Portman “have already spent … over $10 million’ against Strickland’s run for U.S. Senate.”
“Why are they doing that? Don’t you think that’s a good question to ask the people of this state?” Strickland asked. “Why would they spend that much money, more than a year before the election? Because they have, in Rob Portman, the perfect senator for them. He’s always there when they need him.”
Strickland also slammed Portman for being one of 47 Republican U.S. senators who signed a letter to Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warning that Congress could revoke any nuclear deal that President Obama makes. According to The Washington Post in a story published on March 10, 2015, Portman was one of those 47 letter-signers.
“(Portman) signed that letter … in the middle of negotiations in an effort to embarrass the president and to scuttle the negotiations,” he said. “For Portman to sign that letter was disgraceful. Some people have used harsher descriptions than that. I’ll just say it was a disgraceful act.”
Before closing his remarks, Strickland said much is at stake for not only Democrats, but for America.
“I’m running for … the future of the Senate, the future of the Supreme Court, and the future of the middle class in this country.”
Reach Michael Johnson at 740-446-2342, ext. 2102, or on Twitter @OhioEditorMike.