Major Union Sits Out Ohio Senate Race

Labor union backed Strickland in previous elections

Ted Strickland
Ted Strickland / AP
September 16, 2016

A major labor union in Ohio is refraining from endorsing a candidate in the state’s contested Senate race, despite having previously backed Democrat and former Gov. Ted Strickland.

The Ohio State Building and Construction Trade Council, which boasts 94,000 members, said Thursday that it would not endorse either Strickland or incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R.), the Dayton Daily News first reported.

The revelation comes after several labor unions have broken with histories of endorsing Strickland and backed Portman instead.

The decision was made by the organization’s 21-member executive board, which discussed the issue at a recent meeting in Columbus.

"We have endorsed Ted Strickland on a number of occasions," said Dennis Duffey, who serves as secretary treasurer for the labor union. Duffey added, however, that Portman "has been very helpful to us on a number of causes over the past three years. He understands our industry."

Duffey said that "even though Ted has been a good friend for a long time," the executive board decided "not to insult either one of them who have been very helpful to us."

The move by the union represents a blow to Strickland, who has fallen behind Portman in recent polls. Several labor unions that backed the Democrat in his 2006 and 2010 gubernatorial bids have decided to endorse Portman in the race, including an influential union of coal miners and the 50,000-member Ohio Conference of Teamsters. Still, Strickland has earned several union endorsements.

A spokesman for the Strickland campaign did not return a request for comment by press time.

Portman currently leads his challenger by more than 13 percentage points, according to an average of polls of the Ohio Senate race provided by Real Clear Politics.