Strickland served one term as governor before he was unseated by John Kasich in 2010.
At 73, after a long career in politics that included a stint as a U.S. representative, Strickland said he is not ready to hang up his hat.
“I want to work until I die. Retirement doesn’t have much of an appeal to me,” Strickland said. “You are on this earth for a limited period of time and I want to use it to the fullest to pursue the things that I care about. And I care about Ohio.”
He said Sittenfeld told him he wouldn’t run if Strickland did, but changed his mind. The two haven’t talked since then, Strickland said.
He doesn’t think he will have a problem winning the primary, but said a contested primary would require the use of campaign money better used in the general election.
“P.G. Sittenfeld is also a talented young person. But let me say to you that this country is facing really serious problems, very serious problems, domestically and internationally,” Strickland said.
“I believe what we need is serious, seasoned, experienced, mature decision-makers in Washington at this point in time.”
Sittenfeld admires Strickland, said Tamaya Dennard, Sittenfeld’s political director.
“But if we’re going to change the way Washington is working for Ohio’s middle class, we need new leaders offering big, new ideas and focusing on solving problems,” Dennard said.
Strickland said he has the best chance of beating Portman and is the best candidate to stand up for working people.
“I just think if you work hard, you work every day, play by the rules, you ought not have to live in poverty,” Strickland said.
Strickland said he supports raising the minimum wage, affordable health care, and workers’ rights to bargain for wages, benefits and safety. He said Portman has opposed a higher minimum wage and the federal Affordable Care Act.
“Rob Portman, I believe, was born into privilege, has lived a privileged life and has used his political career to advocate for people who are already privileged,” Strickland said. “The income disparity is growing and is a major threat to the country and democracy.”
He said the wealthy have been the primary beneficiaries of the economic recovery and Republican tax policies, while working people have seen wages stagnate and have been forced to bear a disproportionate share of the tax burden.
“I do not believe in the trickle-down theory. Senator Portman does,” Strickland said. “What I believe is the bottom up, middle out theory.”
Strickland said if workers are given sufficient wages and benefits they will spend money and stimulate the economy.
“Ted Strickland likes to pretend he was never governor,” said Portman spokesman Corry Bliss. “No matter how hard he may try, it’s going to be difficult for Governor Strickland to rewrite his awful record as governor when Ohio lost 350,000 jobs, unemployment spiked above 10 percent and he raised taxes on the vast majority of working people.
“Rob Portman is fighting to expand opportunities for workers and improve access to better-paying jobs and he’ll keep fighting to move Ohio forward.”
Kasich and Republicans made hay on economic issues when Strickland ran for re-election in 2010 as the country was still reeling from the Great Recession. Kasich narrowly won and continues to criticize the loss of Ohio jobs during Strickland’s tenure and to tout gains made since then.
“When people feel under siege economically they naturally think, ‘Well, maybe someone else will do a better job,’ ” Strickland said of his loss to Kasich.
Strickland said the state was on the mend during his last year as governor because of his good management, financial help from federal stimulus money and President Barack Obama’s auto industry bailout.
Strickland said he expanded children’s access to healthcare, froze undergraduate college tuition, created jobs by investing in infrastructure and rolled out educational reforms that would have left schools in far better shape today if Republicans hadn’t overturned them.
He expects opponents will continue to hammer him on the difficulties Ohioans suffered during the Great Recession, which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.
“I think that the people of Ohio are pretty fair-minded. They understand that Ted Strickland did not cause an international and national recession,” Strickland said.
He said Republican attacks and name-calling — including the “Retread Ted” website created by Portman’s campaign — just lets him know they are worried.
“If they weren’t concerned about me they would be probably ignoring me at this stage of the game,” Strickland said.
Staff writer Jim Otte contributed to this report.