Before former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland even stepped up to the podium, he was greeted by the applause of some 170 Ohio State students and other event attendees. A student yelled from the back row, “We love you Ted!” and the crowd chuckled as Strickland blews a mock kiss in their direction.
Strickland is no stranger to OSU, having visited the Ohio Union in Aug. 2015 to speak to students about the upcoming senatorial race in which he is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman.
“We have a very strong contrast between Portman and Strickland,” said Jake Vasilj, president of College Democrats. “Strickland is going to fight so that we have debt-free college, so that loans can be refinanced and he’s going to give (students) a voice in the senate.”
Portman, whose first term as senator is approaching an end, is up 7.5 percentage points against Strickland, according to a Real Clear Politics average of seven polls. Portman and conservative political groups have focused their attack ads on Strickland’s record on the economy and jobs.
Strickland spent a large portion of his time talking about his plans to support debt-free college.
“I want to be sure that students can get an education just as I was able to,” Strickland said.
Throughout his speech, wove anecdote with political stance, citing his niece’s long hours in the construction field as his reason to raise the minimum wage. He matched immigration issues with the story of an undocumented worker at a pizza shop in Cambridge, Ohio, who confessed his anxiety over deportation, and personalized his stance on drug reform with the death of his nephew after an oxycodone overdose.
During the 45-minute speech, Strickland touched on a variety of subjects ranging from women’s health to debt-free college. His words were frequently disrupted by smatterings of applause from the crowd.
“I thought he did a pretty good job of covering all the different topics, he really related his campaign goals to college students,” said Madison Burris second-year in health sciences. “I will be voting for him after hearing him speak.”
Towards the end of the event, Strickland opened up to the audience for questions.
After being asked if he would support equal pay for women, Strickland responded, “with enthusiasm,” drawing lasting applause from the crowd.
Other questions centered on Strickland’s plan for prison reform, a topic from which he drew heavily on his experience as a psychologist within the prison system prior to his political career.
“When a person has done their time they should be restored to full citizenship,” Strickland said.
College Democrats expressed their enthusiasm in supporting Strickland in the upcoming election.
“Governor Strickland knows that student issues don’t just stop with just fixing the college education system,” Vasilj said. “He really cares about fighting for progressive issues his whole career and we’re really excited to make him the next senator for Ohio.”