Two good men, and two good public servants, are running for the U.S. Senate in Ohio this year.
Ted Strickland is a thoroughly decent human being who served as a fine governor in hard times. He took the fall for a bad economy, and made hard choices, while trying to protect vulnerable people. (The same could not be said for his successor, who has bankrupted cities, and therefore hurt vulnerable people, in good times.)
Ted Strickland comes from working-class folk, hardscrabble ones. His Democratic roots are deep. And, as a clergyman, clinician, and congressman, he has always stood up for the dispossessed of Ohio.
On the critical issue of NAFTA and the larger issue of so-called “free trade,” Mr. Strickland always voted the right way: to protect Ohio jobs.
Rob Portman, an equally decent human being, has come late to the trade issue, and some even doubt his sincerity. He was once the ultimate free trader. He is now a “fair” trader who wants to protect Ohio jobs with “smarter” trade deals. Mr. Portman now says that NAFTA needs to be fixed. We credit Donald J. Trump for making it impossible for an Ohio Republican senator to run for re-election as a defender of unencumbered free trade.
So the question is: Which man — Mr. Strickland or Mr. Portman — would be more effective in fighting for Ohio jobs going forward?
We think the answer is Mr. Portman.
We hope and trust that Mr. Strickland’s public career will not end with this race. He still has much to give. And he is a giver.
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But Ted Strickland would be starting a Senate career at age 75. Mr. Portman already has seniority and clout at the age of 60. The Democrats, who have withdrawn money from Mr. Strickland, certainly never promised he would head a committee if elected. We need more than just a vote.
More than seniority, Mr. Portman is a “21st century senator” who works across party lines to get things done. Indeed, he is the very model of a senator who goes out of his way to build bridges across party and ideology. Mr. Portman passes a huge amount of legislation. He always starts with a Democratic co-sponsor — not just in name but in real partnership.
Mr. Strickland is an old-fashioned partisan politician. He would not be able to work this way in the Senate. We need more of the Portman approach in the Congress, not less.
Indeed, Mr. Portman has worked perhaps most closely and consistently with his Democratic colleague, Sherrod Brown, especially on Lake Erie issues. In such a toxic political atmosphere, with the Senate closely and bitterly divided, Ohio protects itself by having one senator from each party — a political insurance policy small New England states have long understood.
We want to protect Ohio, not a party or an ideology.
One of the points Mr. Portman often makes is that lots of issues are not, by their nature, partisan — they are human issues. Two immense human issues in our time are the opioid addiction problem and human trafficking. Mr. Portman has not only been the champion on these two issues, above all others in Congress, but he has worked on these matters with an attention to detail and a focus most unusual, almost unique, for a senator.
Another such issue is the quality of federal judges. When a state has one Republican and one Democratic senator, they have to work together on judicial nominees and the result is a more moderate judiciary.
In short, Mr. Portman is an exceptional legislator, one who has made a difference and one who may yet make a difference on trade and manufacturing. We reserve the right to hold his feet to the fire on those issues. But The Blade endorses Rob Portman for re-election to the U.S. Senate.
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