Democratic Senate Candidate Again Under Fire for Misleading Voters

Strickland blasts competitor for vote on China despite his own record

Ted Strickland in 2012
Ted Strickland / AP
April 1, 2016

Ted Strickland, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio, is again under scrutiny for allegedly misleading voters on his policy positions.

The competing campaign of incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R.) accused Strickland, former governor of Ohio, of spreading a false narrative about his stance on trade with China. Throughout his campaign, Strickland has been criticized by individuals in both parties for flip-flopping and misleading voters on issues.

A web advertisement released by the Strickland campaign Thursday criticizes Portman for voting for the continuation of normal trade relations between the United States and China as a congressman in July 1999. The video specifically hits Portman for voting to give "Most Favored Nation" status to China and accuses him of "selling out" Ohio.

The advertisement does not mention that Strickland, who served in Congress in the 1990s and 2000s, voted against revoking "Most Favored Nation" status for China in July 1993 and August 1994.

The Portman campaign characterized the new video as "dishonest" and "misleading."

"Ted Strickland’s dishonest and misleading Web video can’t hide the fact that in Congress he voted twice against revoking China's Most Favored Nation status," Portman campaign spokeswoman Michawn Rich said in a statement. "Rob Portman is the only candidate in this race who has stood up to China—even opposing his own party to stop China’s currency manipulation and protecting Ohio jobs when China cheats."

The Strickland campaign advertisement comes in response to one from the Portman campaign published Wednesday. The Portman video points out that Strickland opposed the enforcement of Chinese trade deals in Congress, opened a trade office in China when serving as governor, and granted a $4 million taxpayer loan to a company with a Chinese factory during his governorship. The company, based in Toledo, eventually went bankrupt.

Strickland’s campaign has repeatedly attacked Portman on the issue of trade with China, labeling the incumbent senator the "best senator China ever had." The campaign has also accused Portman of performing a "triple aerial flip-flop" on trade by opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement despite previously voting for it. Others, including Strickland ally Hillary Clinton, have also altered their positions on the deal.

Strickland has been attacked from both sides of the aisle for allegedly misleading Ohio voters and flipping policy positions.

Cincinnati city councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, a fellow Democrat and one of Strickland’s competitors in the primary, continuously criticized the former governor for departing from his past pro-gun position.

The Strickland campaign responded to questions about his decision to now support some gun-control measures by indicating that he changed his mind following the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012.

Sittenfeld characterized that as a lie, pointing to previously little-known audio of Strickland bragging about his pro-gun voting record and backing from the NRA in March 2015.

"I have not lobbied for additional gun laws, and brother, let me put my record in front of you. As a congressman, I had an A and most of the time an A+ rating with the National Rifle Association. That has been my position and it is my position," Strickland said during a local radio interview captured more than two years after the Sandy Hook shooting. "You can look at my record back to the time when I first ran for Congress. During my years in Congress, I was the guy who voted against the assault weapons ban."

Sittenfeld accused the campaign of "peddling a false claim and a misleading fiction about when and why he supposedly changed his views on guns."

Strickland’s malleable position on guns lost him several key endorsements to Sittenfeld, including those from former Ohio Gov. Dick Celeste (D.) and the editorial boards of two influential publications in the state. Strickland said in February that people could "criticize" him for his changing record.

"My record is mixed and spotty and I could be criticized for that," Strickland said during a contentious meeting between the Democratic candidates with the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s editorial board.

Still, Strickland beat out his competitors handedly for the nomination.

Strickland has also come under fire for his connection to anti-coal organizations despite professing to care about Ohio’s coal-country voters. Strickland defended Clinton’s position on coal jobs after she pledged to put coal miners and companies "out of business" during a Democratic presidential town hall event in the state last month.

Strickland has also worked for a liberal think tank that pushes anti-coal policies and recently received an endorsement from the political committee of a green energy group that actively lobbies against coal-fired power plants.

Strickland has also been criticized for not taking positions on crucial policy proposals, such as the Keystone XL pipeline and President Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

A spokesman for the Strickland campaign did not respond to a request for comment.