Three Labor Unions Abandon Ted Strickland

Portman picks up endorsements from unions that formerly backed Democrat

Ted Strickland in 2012
Ted Strickland / AP
July 27, 2016

Three major labor unions have decided against supporting Ted Strickland in his bid to unseat Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), despite having previously endorsed the Democrat.

The unions have instead endorsed Portman as a champion of working families, which spells trouble for Strickland with police officers, coal miners, and other state workers with whom he was once popular.

Portman’s most recent endorsement came from the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, the state’s largest law enforcement union, on Tuesday, one day after the Ohio Conference of Teamsters backed the Republican senator in his reelection bid. Together, the unions have more than 75,000 members in the state.

Strickland was seen spending time with members of the police union on Monday, the day before the union endorsed his competitor. "Ted had a great day with the brave men and women from the ‪@FOPofOhio," his campaign tweeted.

Jay McDonald, president of the union’s Ohio chapter and vice president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, called Portman’s support for the Ohio law enforcement community "unmatched" in a statement announcing the endorsement. Pat Darrow, the president of the Ohio Conference of Teamsters, lauded Portman on Monday for "fighting for middle-class jobs and higher wages" and helping the state’s workers protect their pensions.

Portman also received a major endorsement in June from the political arm of United Mine Workers of America, a union of coal miners that backed only Democrats running in Ohio in the 2006, 2010, 2012, and 2014 election years.

Strickland, who has made his Appalachian coal country roots a focal point of his campaign, has been scrutinized for his work heading the lobbying arm of the Center for American Progress prior to launching his bid for U.S. Senate. The liberal think tank, based in Washington, D.C., advocates for progressive environmental policies and a shift away from coal.

"The wheels are certainly coming off Ted Strickland's Campaign considering the retread candidate has now lost three major endorsements from unions that previously supported him," said Michawn Rich, a spokeswoman for the Portman campaign. "Other than breathing and occasionally wandering out in public—just three times this month—it is unclear what Ted Strickland brings to this race as his campaign has no money, no grassroots support, and the worst record of any Senate candidate in America."

"Ted can’t raise money or find support in Ohio because people remember his awful record as governor when the state lost more than 350,000 jobs and ranked 48th in job creation," Rich said.

All three unions previously endorsed Strickland in his successful gubernatorial bid in 2006 and his failed reelection campaign against Republican John Kasich four years later.

Still, several labor unions in Ohio have endorsed Strickland, including the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and most recently the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters.

Strickland for Senate has received more than $240,500 in contributions from political committees associated with unions, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission data. Two unions have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertisements in Ohio in an effort to help Strickland defeat Portman.

Portman has an edge over his competitor in the swing state race, one of the most contentious of the 2016 election cycle. Recent polling conducted by Quinnipiac University indicates that Portman has expanded a 7-point lead over Strickland in the last month, as Strickland’s unfavorable numbers have risen among Ohio voters. A survey released by Public Policy Polling on Monday showed the Republican incumbent with a 5-point edge over Strickland.

The Strickland campaign did not return a request for comment.