Ohio Democrat Proposes Six Senate Primary Debates

By John Celock

A 30-year-old Democrat seeking a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio is challenging the state’s former governor to six debates in their Democratic primary race.

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld released a video Tuesday proposing a series of six debates between him and former Gov. Ted Strickland as they seek the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R) next year. The challenge comes as Sittenfeld continues to try to gain statewide name recognition.

“I believe we can get voters more engaged, excited and informed by having a new kind of debate for a new era of politics,” Sittenfeld said in the video. “Specifically I am proposing a series of respectful 60 minute conversations where the candidates truly interact with, listen to and respond to one another. Rather than the normal regurgitation of sound bites that voters find canned and stall.”

Sittenfeld said in order to reach a larger audience he would want to see the debates aired on a series of livestreaming sites including Periscope.

Sittenfeld, who was first elected to the city council in 2011 and reelected in 2013, was the first Democrat to enter the Senate contest in January. While some had expected him to drop out after Strickland entered the race in late February, he has continued. An April fundraising report indicated that Sittenfeld raised $750,000 in the first three months of this year while Strickland raised $671,073 in the same period. The Ohio Media Group reported at the time though that much of Sittenfeld’s fundraising occurred before Strickland, who lost his 2010 gubernatorial reelection bid, entered the contest.

Strickland campaign spokesman Dennis Willard told The Celock Report that Sittenfeld and his campaign have not contacted either Strickland or his campaign with the debate request.

“But there will be plenty of opportunity to debate the issues as the campaign goes on,” Willard said.

Sittenfeld is one of several Democrats in their early 30s to seek Senate seats in the 2016 election. Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, 34, is the presumptive Democratic nominee in his state. In Florida, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, 32, has been gaining support in his bid from the Democratic Senate nomination but could face a primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson. In 2012, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), then 35, was the unsuccessful GOP nominee against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D).