U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) bagged another big union endorsement in his re-election bid Wednesday, while opponent Democrat Ted Strickland renewed his call on Mr. Portman to renounce his support of Republican Donald Trump for president because of Mr. Trump’s feud with a Gold Star family.
Local 18 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, a 15,000-member union that represents heavy equipment operators, endorsed Mr. Portman. The operating engineers union covers 85 Ohio counties, including all of northwest Ohio.
That makes the fourth major union that has previously supported Mr. Strickland to sign up with Mr. Portman. The other unions are the Fraternal Order of Police, the Ohio Conference of Teamsters, and the United Mine Workers.
The Portman campaign quoted Local 18 business manager Richard Dalton saying, “We are proud to endorse Rob Portman and look forward to working with him to improve Ohio’s infrastructure and keep our state moving forward. Rob has proven time and again that he will do what it takes to protect Ohio families and fight for middle-class jobs and increased wages.”
Local 18’s website shows it supports the shale oil industry and the Keystone XL pipeline, both of which are threatened by Democratic energy and environmental policies.
Mr. Strickland said he was not unduly concerned about losing the Local 18 endorsement.
“If you were to add up my labor endorsements to Senator Portman’s, it would probably be 10-1 or so. Operating engineers … tend to support Republicans in most cases, it was not a surprise at all,” Mr. Strickland said.
The union supported Mr. Strickland for governor in 2006.
The Strickland campaign cites his backing from United Auto Workers, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, the Steelworkers, and AFSCME as evidence that Mr. Strickland is “on the side of Ohioans who actually work for a living.”
Mr. Strickland made his comments about Mr. Portman in a telephone conference call with former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan, a Vietnam veteran. Mr. Hagan expressed outrage at Mr. Trump’s interactions with the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan.
“For Senator Portman on the one hand to say he disagrees but on the other to say he’s all in for Trump, I think, is an example of gutless political calculation," Mr. Strickland said.
“I don’t think Rob Portman can continue to support Donald Trump for president without accepting support for Donald Trump’s agenda. I think Senator Portman has a choice to make, either all in for Trump or have the courage to condemn Donald Trump’s rhetoric about the Khan family. In my judgment, Senator Portman is choosing to put the party that he belongs to over the well-being of this country,” Mr. Strickland said.
Mr. Portman on Sunday issued a statement saying he disagrees with Mr. Trump’s treatment of the parents of a Muslim-American soldier who was killed in the Iraq War in 2004. The parents attacked Mr. Trump from the stage of the Democratic National Convention last week, sparking Mr. Trump’s response.
Khizr and Ghazala Khan appeared together on the podium of the Democratic National Convention. Khizr Khan criticized Trump’s remarks about Muslims, asked whether the real estate mogul had read the Constitution, and said Mr. Trump had never sacrificed anything.
Mr. Trump said the grieving father had “no right” to criticize him but later acknowledged their son is a hero. Mr. Trump also implied that Mrs. Khan stayed silent because of a religious prohibition on Muslim women speaking. Mrs. Khan said she was too emotional to talk.
Mr. Strickland was asked about his support of Democrat Hillary Clinton who, as a U.S. senator from New York in 2002, voted to authorize then-President George W. Bush to invade Iraq.
“I voted against the war. Others chose to give George Bush the authority to go to war if he chose to do that. I think several people look back at that time and would perhaps cast a different vote than they did,” Mr. Strickland said.
Michawn Rich, a spokesman for Mr. Portman, said, “He does not agree with Donald Trump’s remarks and believes that Captain Khan was an American hero who gave his life for his country. As he has said previously many times, Rob does not agree with the idea of banning people from entering the country based on their religion."
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