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Strickland: Working people need voice in D.C.

Former governor hosts Ironton fundraiser for Senate race

Former Gov. and U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland says the main reason he is running for U.S. Senate is to combat economic disparities in the nation.

“I think the average working people are getting a raw deal from the economy,” he said. “For the past 30 years, they’ve been producing wealth, which has been concentrated to the richest one percent.”

Strickland, who is campaigning for the seat currently held by Republican Rob Portman, was in Ironton Friday for a fundraiser at the Ro-Na Theater. Prior to the appearance, he was interviewed by The Tribune.

Strickland said he wants to push for a tax cut for the middle class, in the form of $1,000 a year for joint filers and $500 a year for single filers.

He is also calling for the enactment of the “Buffet rule,” a tax plan proposed by President Barack Obama in 2011 and named for billionaire investor Warren Buffet, who has said he believes the wealthy should not pay a lower portion of their income in taxes. The plan would set a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for individuals making more than $1 million per year.

“Millionaires and billionaires should pay tax rates as high as their secretaries,” Strickland said.

Strickland also said he supports an increase in the minimum wage, paid overtime for workers and seeing to it that women make pay comparable to men in their jobs, all of which he said Portman has fought in legislation.

Strickland sought to contrast his position on trade deals with Portman, who served as U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush and initiated trade agreements between the U.S. and many countries.

Strickland said, as a Congressman in the 1990s, he voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement, Most-Favored Nation trading status for China, fast track trading authority and that he has been opposed to the recently-signed Trans Pacific Partnership, all of which he said lead to jobs being offshored.

He said that, in addition to opposing future such trade deals, he would like to revisit previous agreements.

“I’ve seen what happened in Ohio after NAFTA passed,” he said. “I would love to renegotiate it.”

Strickland also called for the elimination of subsidies to companies that move jobs offshore.

“Most Americans are appalled at knowing that, when a company uproots, they receive subsidies to pay for the cost of moving,” he said.

Strickland said he also wants to tackle the issue of student loan debt and the cost of college.

“Seventy percent of students are leaving college with an average of $30,000 in debt, many higher,” he said.

He said he wants to make it possible for students to refinance debts at lower interest rates and to protect and expand Pell grants and the Perkins Loan program.

On the issue of the opiate epidemic in the state, Strickland said he has been working on the issue, dating back to his time as a Congressman, recalling his efforts to shut down a “dirty doctors” operation that was doing business in Lucasville, Chillicothe and eventually in Lawrence County, at an abandoned bar outside of Ironton.

“I drove by there at 9:30 a.m. and the there were at least 30 cars on the lot,” he said, noting that a great deal of the customers were young adults.

Strickland said that he contacted county sheriffs and worked with the FBI to get the operation shut down and the doctors involved prosecuted and jailed.

He said that, as governor, he conferred with medical and law enforcement leaders to create a task force on the opiate epidemic, which produced several recommendations for the state to follow.

He took issue with Portman’s efforts on the issue, and said that his votes against items such as the omnibus spending bill have deprived communities of funds and resources to fight the problem. He said Portman’s legislation on the issue has not attached appropriation to provide actual money.

“Without appropriations, there are no resources,” he said.

Strickland is being challenged in the March 15 Democratic primary by Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld. Polls have shown him leading in that contest.

The general election race is expected to be one of the most expensive and competitive races in the nation. The most recent polling, taken by Quinnipiac University from Feb. 16-20, showed Strickland slightly ahead of Portman, 44 to 42 percent, but within the poll’s margin of error of +/- 2.5 percent.

The Tribune has extended an invitation to Portman and his campaign for an interview.