Meet the candidates for US Senate

(Photo courtesy of Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democratic candidate for Senate in Ohio, in Cleveland, OH. Saturday, January 16, 2016. Christopher Dilts /

Nicholas Hunter

This year’s election is about more than just the presidential race. Incumbent Rob Portman is being challenged by former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland for his seat in the U.S. Senate. 

Portman has held his senate seat since 2011. He was a U.S. House Representative from 1993 to 2005. Before the House, he utilized his law degree from the University of Michigan to serve under President George H. W. Bush as the director of White House legislative affairs.

Strickland earned his doctorate in counseling psychology in 1980. He also served as a U.S. House Representative from 1993 to 2007. He then served as Ohio’s governor from 2007 to 2011. 

Despite being in opposing parties, there are some issues both candidates agree on: both candidates support marriage equality — a stance Portman took in 2013 when his son Will came out as gay. They also both support the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

Both candidates are in favor of expanding use of clean energy sources, although they wish to take different approaches: Portman wants to use an “all-of-the-above” approach, utilizing a mix of alternative energy sources alongside traditional coal-based energy sources. Strickland wants to determine energy sources based on needs of each region, using the most effective form for each area of the country.

From there, the similarities stop. Portman wants to reduce regulation as a way to encourage alternative energy growth and supporting traditional energy usage. Strickland, on the other hand, wants to push development of more clean energy, both as an environment-saver and job-creator. 

In years past, Strickland held an “A+” rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) for his pro second amendment right beliefs.

However, recent mass shootings in the U.S. have caused him to change his views. He believes that having better background checks and banning the purchase of guns from people on the terrorist watch list are policies that will help that do not infringe on second amendment rights.

This change in views have earned Strickland an “F” rating from the NRA.

The NRA rates Portman with an “A” because he believes there is a problem with gun violence in America, wants better enforcement of current laws, better protection of schools and wants to take better care of mentally-ill people as ways to curb gun violence. 

One of the starkest contrasts between the two candidates is their views on women’s rights. Portman is anti-abortion and is a supporter of Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which prohibits abortions 20 weeks after fertilization.

Strickland, in contrast, is pro-choice. He supports free contraception, as well as continuing federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

One area that Portman has already made an impact is in the drug epidemic. As senator, he has crafted the bi-partisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which created better education systems, preventative measures and higher-level recovery systems. This plan has been praised across party lines, as well as by experts in the field. 

As governor, Strickland implemented the Ohio Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force in 2010, which was created to crack down on distribution and abuse of prescription opioids. He also implemented the use of community grants to support local treatment centers. Both candidates plan to expand on what they have already accomplished to continue combating the drug epidemic, both in Ohio and nationwide.

In terms of helping the middle class, Portman and Strickland are taking different approaches.

Portman’s hope is to alleviate stress on middle-class families by simplifying and restructuring tax codes as a way to decrease taxes for middle and lower-class families. He also wants to improve work training programs and is looking to reform regulatory systems for businesses to help growth for small businesses.

Portman also sees reform for work regulatory systems as a way to encourage bigger companies to bring well-paying jobs into Ohio, which is what he believes is the best way to help people graduating from college. He has also supported the Repay Act, which would allow struggling college graduates to restructure their debt. 

Strickland’s plan for supporting the middle class is centered around closing up the wage gap. He supports raising the minimum wage nationwide to a “living wage,” equal pay for women, and is a strong supporter of collective bargaining in the workplace.

In his time as governor, Strickland implemented tuition freezes in Ohio during the great recession of 2008. His current plan falls in line with that of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, which is to make college education debt-free. He also supports the expansion of federal Pell grants and Perkins loans.

Nicholas Hunter is a columnist, contact him [email protected].