Sittenfeld loses by a wide margin to Strickland

Posted at 9:04 PM, Mar 15, 2016

It was a David-vs.-Goliath battle from the beginning, but this time, there was no surprise victory for Cincinnati City Councilman PG Sittenfeld.

Just as the polls predicted, Sittenfeld lost on Tuesday night to party giant Ted Strickland in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

This is the first election loss for Sittenfeld, who at 27 was the youngest person ever to win a seat on Cincinnati City Council. Then he was re-elected in 2013 with the highest margin of votes in city history.

"This is what it feels like to be on the other side ... Now, I understand," Sittenfeld said Tuesday night. 

When Sittenfeld announced his candidacy in January 2015, it was an empty Democratic field. But then party favorite Strickland jumped into the race a month later — and the pressure began for Sittenfeld, 31, to drop out.

Even his own party gave an embarrassingly early endorsement to Strickland in April 2015.

But Sittenfeld would not quit.

Running his first statewide campaign against a former governor and congressman was a deep longshot.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Sittenfeld had 22 percent of the votes statewide, with 65 percent going to Strickland. Cincinnati occupational therapist Kelli Prather also lost, with just 13 percent of the vote.

"I am sincerely and deeply proud of the campaign we have run," Sittenfeld said. "I have zero regrets. I wouldn’t do anything differently.”

A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that Sittenfeld was virtually unknown to Ohio voters — 85 percent of those polled said they didn’t know enough about him to form an opinion.

“It is an extremely daunting undertaking to run (a) statewide campaign in (a) state as large as Ohio,” said former Republican governor Bob Taft, now a distinguished research associate at the University of Dayton.

“Especially going from a councilman to the U.S. Senate. That’s a big leap,” Taft said. “It’s very hard for him to get known statewide.”

Taft described Sittenfeld’s race as an “extremely uphill battle” against Strickland.

But Sittenfeld seemed to be undaunted, even predicting days ago he would win the race. 

Before his speech, Sittenfeld said he called Strickland and congratulated him on his victory.

"I also told Ted that I will do everything I can to help him beat Rob Portman in November," Sittenfeld said. "After all, I am a Democrat — and the differences I have with Ted pale alongside the differences we both have with Sen. Portman."

Recent polls have Strickland and incumbent GOP Sen. Rob Portman in a tight race that could determine the majority party of the U.S. Senate.

On Wednesday Strickland will kick off his general election campaign with a three-day "Working Families First" tour to share his message of fighting for working people with Ohioans across the state.