By Ben Kamisar
A super-PAC looking to upset the Democratic establishment’s choice for Ohio senator is out with a new video bashing the past support of guns from the nomination favorite.
New Leadership for Ohio, the group backing Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld's bid against former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, is out with a new digital ad telling voters that "You have a choice" besides Strickland's past support for the National Rifle Association. A super-PAC aide told The Hill that the ad will be running online and a shorter version will be moving to television soon.
"Last election, every time you turned around, there was an ad showing a Republican candidate with a gun," the narrator says.
"Ted Strickland ran the same kind of ad during his last campaign in 2010."
It goes on to claim that Strickland "has always bragged about his NRA support and his devotion to gun owners’ rights," including new audio from 2015 highlighted by Sittenfeld's campaign this week. The audio shows Strickland during a radio interview describing his past support of gun rights while not taking the opportunity to distance himself from those policies.
And the ad makes the claim that in the eyes of the NRA, Strickland and incumbent Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanOvernight Healthcare: Watchdog says ObamaCare program made illegal payments Portman ad features father of fallen Iraq soldier Election-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables MORE (R) are equal.
David Bergstein, a Strickland campaign spokesman, brushed aside the audio by arguing that the former governor was only summarizing his record and that he's been vocal about the need for gun control during this election.
"Ted supports additional measures to address the epidemic of gun violence like background checks and closing the terrorist gun loophole that will help keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists, criminals and the mentally ill," Bergstein said in a statement after the Sittenfeld campaign held a press conference using that audio to question his support for gun control.
"The only candidate in this race who doesn’t support commonsense background checks and closing the terrorist gun loophole is Senator Rob Portman, and it is unfortunate that P.G. is resorting to a false, personal attack against former Governor Strickland in an effort to bring attention to his campaign."
New Leadership for Ohio is one of the few super-PACs playing in Senate primary races this cycle. It's looking to help boost Sittenfeld's fortunes as the candidate himself is struggling to fundraise.
The super-PAC closed 2015 after raising $733,501 in its three months of operation. Sittenfeld himself reported raising less than $300,000 in the final fundraising quarter of 2015, compared to $1 million for Strickland.
Neither candidate has filed their full disclosures as the deadline isn't until the end of the month, but The Columbus Dispatch reports that Strickland has about twice as much cash in the bank than Sittenfeld.
Strickland is the establishment pick for the race against Portman, having won the endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He holds a strong lead at the polls and in favorabilty.
A poll from Public Policy Polling done for the Ohio Democratic Party showed him leading the primary field with 61 percent compared to Sittenfeld's 10 percent. A slight majority of Democratic voters have a favorable view of Strickland, while almost three quarters don't know enough about Sittenfeld to form an opinion.
—Updated at 12:35 p.m.