COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican Rob Portman won the backing of the Teamsters labor union Monday over rival Ted Strickland in Ohio’s closely watched U.S. Senate race.
The announcement by the 50,000-member Ohio Conference of Teamsters was an important campaign endorsement for Portman and a political blow to Strickland. The Democrat is a former governor and congressman whose strong relationships with labor have helped him win elections.
Pat Darrow, the Teamsters’ Ohio conference president, said the union looked forward to supporting Portman.
“When it comes to hardworking Ohio families, Rob Portman has our back. Rob is fighting for middle-class jobs and higher wages for the people of Ohio, and he has fought with us to protect our pensions,” Darrow said.
Strickland spokesman David Bergstein said Strickland has earned the endorsement of most labor unions including the United Auto Workers, the AFL-CIO and AFSCME. By contrast, Portman has taken several anti-worker positions including opposition to raising the minimum wage, Bergstein said.
“The contrast in this election couldn’t be more clear: Ted is on the side of Ohioans who actually work for a living, while Senator Portman is pushing the agenda of his rich and powerful friends at the expense of working families,” Bergstein said.
In June, Portman also won the endorsement of the United Mine Workers of America. That was a setback for Strickland who has campaigned on his roots in coal-rich Appalachia and his history of supporting area mineworkers.
The contest could be one of the nation’s most expensive Senate races this year, with planned spending so far some $45 million, including by the campaigns, the parties and outside special-interest groups. Many ads are expected in the final months.
It’s unclear whether the presidential race will affect the Senate outcome. Strickland’s campaign frequently calls on Portman to repudiate Republican nominee Donald Trump, while Portman has highlighted Hillary Clinton’s comments on coal miners while trumpeting his United Mine Workers endorsement.
Portman narrowly leads Strickland, while Trump and Clinton are deadlocked in Ohio.