Ted Strickland, a Democratic candidate for Senate in Ohio, labeled Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman "the enemy" during a Democratic Party event Monday evening.
The former Ohio governor and congressman appeared at the Hamilton County Democratic Fall Reception in Cincinnati alongside his competition for the nomination, 31-year-old Cincinnati city councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who has stood firm in his criticism of Strickland in recent weeks.
"I am running for this office and I am running against Rob Portman," Strickland said Monday, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He is our enemy. We ought not to be fighting. I have not said a negative word about my opponent. P.G. Sittenfeld is not my enemy. Rob Portman is my enemy and the enemy of those of us who hold Democratic values."
His remarks echoed comments he heard Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton make at an Ohio event in August. Clinton, a Strickland ally, likened her Republican foes to "terrorist groups" during her speech at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
"Extreme views about women? We expect that from some of the terrorist groups. We expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world," Clinton said at the event during which Strickland also spoke. "But it’s a little hard to take coming from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States."
On Monday, Sittenfeld slammed Strickland for his pro-gun voting record in Congress, reiterating calls for him to "renounce" the National Rifle Association. He also demanded that Strickland agree to participate in primary debates, a request that the former governor has consistently ignored.
"No one will be more willing to stand up to the NRA than I will. … Governor Strickland, I think the voters of Ohio deserve to know why you’re holding tight to that A+ rating from the NRA," Sittenfeld told the audience of 300, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. "These are real issues, and let’s not be afraid to have substantive a conversation about them."
Sittenfeld has also hit Strickland for his refusal to take a position on the Keystone XL pipeline and his vote to repeal the Depression-era banking law Glass-Steagall while in Congress.
Nevertheless, Strickland refused to fight back at Sittenfeld Monday evening.
"We are all a part of a large Democratic family. We share common values and interests. I think we have common goals. I am running because I think I am the guy that can beat Rob Portman. There are a lot of issues we are all concerned about, but we have to win the race," Strickland said.
He also reportedly called Portman by the wrong name, referring to him as "Bob."
Strickland is widely considered as the frontrunner for the nomination, having already received an endorsement from the Ohio Democratic Party. Polling shows that 86 percent of Ohio voters don’t know enough about Sittenfeld to form an opinion.
However, some prominent Ohio Democrats who oppose the party’s decision to hastily back Strickland recently formed a Super PAC to support Sittenfeld that raised $370,000 in its first two weeks. Strickland told the Courier Monday that he isn’t afraid of the Super PAC.
"I think multiple millions of dollars could be spent against me, and I would still emerge as the clear winner," Strickland said.
Strickland’s own fundraising has been slow. The Democratic candidate has raised just over 13 percent of the funds his advisers said he would need by November 2016 to beat Portman, if he should win the Democratic nomination.