Young Candidate Struggles In Ohio

By John Celock

One of the nation’s youngest U.S. Senate candidates is struggling to gain traction, a new poll shows.

A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday shows that 88 percent of Ohio voters have not heard enough about 30-year-old Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, one of two Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to face U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R) next year. Sittenfeld is facing off against former Gov. Ted Strickland (D).

The poll, which did not measure the primary between Strickland and Sittenfeld, showed that Sittenfeld was trailing Portman in a hypothetical match-up. In that match-up Portman polled 46 percent and Sittenfeld 25 percent. In a hypothetical race, Strickland narrowly led Portman 44 percent to 41 percent.

The poll showed that five percent of those surveyed have a favorable view of Sittenfeld and seven percent had an unfavorable view. The poll showed that voters not hearing of Sittenfeld led the numbers for those who had not heard enough about Portman, a one term senator and former Bush Administration cabinet member, and Strickland, who left the governor’s mansion in 2011 after one term. Twenty three percent had not heard enough about Strickland, while 37 percent had not heard enough about Portman.

The Ohio Senate race is likely to be one of the most competitive in the nation next year, with both parties investing heavily in the swing state. National and state Democrats favor Strickland to be the party’s nominee. Sittenfeld entered the race before Strickland but has stayed in the race, barnstorming the state since Strickland entered the field.

Sittenfeld, a two-term councilman in Cincinnati, is not the first young U.S. Senate candidate in Ohio. In 2012, state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), then 35, was the unsuccessful GOP nominee against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in one of the nation’s most competitive Senate contests.

Strickland, a former congressman, is seeking a comeback after his 2010 gubernatorial reelection defeat by Gov. John Kasich (R). Strickland has remained visible in the state since leaving the governor’s mansion and has been a spokesman nationally for progressive causes. Portman, a former congressman who was trade representative and budget director under former President George W. Bush, was elected in 2010 defeating then Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D), who was Strickland’s lieutenant governor and economic development chief.

The 2016 Senate race though could pay off long term for Sittenfeld, giving him exposure to seek statewide office in 2018, when all of Ohio’s constitutional offices will be open seat contests due to term limits.

Sittenfeld is among a group of young candidates seeking Senate seats next year. In Missouri, 34-year-old Secretary of State Jason Kander is the presumptive Democratic nominee against U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R) in what has been shaping up to be a competitive race. In Florida, 32-year-old U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy is competing against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in the Democratic primary for an open seat. The Murphy/Grayson contest is competitive in the swing state. In Maryland, 35-year-old Republican Chrys Kefalas is seeking the GOP nomination for an open seat against Richard Douglas, who was a deputy assistant defense secretary under former President George W. Bush.