Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland made a stop at the Ohio Union Thursday evening to speak with Ohio State students about his U.S. Senate candidacy. Almost 200 students attended.
Strickland spoke about his political career and policy ideas in addition to taking questions from students at the event hosted by the OSU College Democrats.
During his visit, Strickland touched on a variety of issues, like his support for marriage equality, the recently negotiated Iran nuclear deal and campaign finance reform. He focused most heavily on criminal justice reform and college affordability.
“I would like to see all public colleges and universities tuition-free,” Strickland said. “That can be done.”
Strickland had previously said he supports free tuition for community college in a press release.
“I must admit I was surprised,” Mircea Lazar, the communications director for the College Democrats and a third-year in international relations and economics, said. “I think most people were impressed. (Strickland) tended to be more moderate in the past, and this is a position you’d expect to hear from someone like Bernie Sanders.”
Strickland, who worked as a psychologist within the prison system before beginning his political career, spoke about his historical advocacy for criminal justice reform. He said the issue was eventually present during his legislative tenure.
“Every session I was in the House of Representatives, I introduced legislation to prevent the privatization of federal prisons,” he said, drawing lasting applause.
Lazar said the number of students who attended the event was “amazing.”
“We’ve never had a turnout like that ever,” Lazar said. “We were blown away … I’d like to see people keep showing up. It creates a more powerful force for pushing policy change.”
This was the College Democrats’ first event for this school year. Similarly, the OSU College Republicans will host U.S. Senator Rob Portman on Tuesday. Portman is the Republican incumbent that Strickland hopes to run against in the 2016 general election.
The OSU College Republicans did not respond to an email for comment.