Another Labor Union Backs Rob Portman for Senate

Rob Portman in 2012 / AP
Rob Portman in 2012 / AP

Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) has received a key endorsement in his reelection fight from a labor union that has a history of backing his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Ted Strickland.

The 50,000-member Ohio Conference of Teamsters endorsed Portman for reelection on Monday, describing the senator as a champion of working families in the state. The endorsement is the second major union endorsement that Portman has received in recent months, dealing a blow to his competitor.

"Rob is fighting for middle-class jobs and higher wages for the people of Ohio, and he has fought with us to protect our pensions," Pat Darrow, the president of the Ohio Conference of Teamsters, said in a statement Monday. "We look forward to supporting Rob and continuing to work with him in the U.S. Senate."

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The Teamsters union has a history of supporting Democratic candidates, including President Barack Obama and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. The union also endorsed Strickland for governor in 2006 and 2010. Strickland has relied on support and donations from labor unions in his political campaigns.

The United Mine Workers of America similarly backed Portman over Strickland in June, despite having endorsed the Democrat in the past. Strickland has come under scrutiny for his connection to organizations pushing green energy policies, which could harm his support among Ohio’s coal-country voters.

"I’m proud to have these hard-working Ohioans on our team," Portman said in a statement celebrating the most recent endorsement. "We’ve worked to protect Ohio jobs and stop retirees from facing pension cuts as large as 70 percent due to no fault of their own."

A Strickland campaign spokesman told the Dayton Daily News that the Democrat has received endorsements from most labor unions, accusing Portman of "pushing the agenda of his rich and powerful friends at the expense of working families." The campaign has sought to cast Portman as a "Washington insider" and tie the senator to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump; polls indicate, however, that the efforts have been unsuccessful, as Portman has seen his support among Ohio voters rise.

News of the endorsement broke following the release of a poll showing Portman with a slight edge in the highly contested senate race. According to a survey from Public Policy Polling released Monday, Portman leads Strickland 43 percent to 38 percent, while nearly one-fifth of voters in Ohio remain undecided.