By John Celock
The actor who portrayed Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” series has waged in to the Ohio U.S. Senate race, endorsing a young elected official based on his gun control stance.
Actor Mark Hamill provided an endorsement for Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld in Sittenfeld’s uphill campaign in next week’s Democratic primary against former Gov. Ted Strickland. Hamill cited Sittenfeld’s strong opposition to guns for his backing of Sittenfeld. Sittenfeld has made Strickland’s past support for the National Rifle Association and against an assault ban the centerpiece of his campaign. Sittenfeld and Strickland are competing for the chance to face U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R) this fall.
“It sickens to see the horrific gun violence in a country I love, perpetrated towards even the most innocent of school children,” Hamill said in a video posted by Sittenfeld’s campaign. “Followed by the politicians doing absolutely nothing.”
At the same time, Strickland is not ceding the gun control debate to Sittenfeld, citing an endorsement from former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. Giffords and Kelly became gun control activists after Giffords was shot and wounded during a 2011 assassination attempt during a constituent outreach event in front of a Tucson supermarket.
“Governor Strickland is the best person in this race to fight for the commonsense steps we need to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and make Ohio’s communities safer,” Gifford and Kelly said in a statement released by the Strickland campaign. “Where Senator Portman voted to protect the loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers get guns without a background check, Governor Strickland will be a strong vote in the United States Senate to close those loopholes. Where Senator Portman ignored the vast majority of Ohioans who wanted responsible solutions, Governor Strickland will stand with the people of Ohio who want commonsense gun laws. We need more leaders like Governor Strickland – leaders who will protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners like us but who also have the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and stand up for common sense. We look forward to seeing Governor Strickland be a voice for responsibility in the United States Senate.”
Gun issues have become central to the Ohio Democratic Senate primary, with Sittenfeld citing Strickland’s past A+ rating from the NRA. The NRA endorsed Strickland in the 2006 Democratic primary for governor and remained neutral in the general election that year between Strickland, then a congressman, and Republican Ken Blackwell. The NRA endorsed Strickland in his unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial reelection effort against Republican John Kasich.
Strickland has presented a more moderate stand on gun issues in the Senate race, including saying that he would support an assault weapons ban. Strickland, who has garnered support from the Democratic establishment in Washington and Ohio, has been endorsed by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who have been pushing increased gun controls.
Sittenfeld, 31, is one of the youngest U.S. Senate candidates in the country. He was the first to enter the Senate race and was expected by many to step aside after Strickland entered the contest last year. Sittenfeld has maintained an energetic campaign around the state, including unsuccessfully calling on Strickland to engage in him in a debate.
Hamill pointed towards Sittenfeld’s youth in his endorsement.
“He is young, he is energetic, he is right on the issues,” Hamill said.