YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — Candidates for a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio clashed over job growth in the state during their first debate Friday.
GOP incumbent Rob Portman said Ohio lost 355,000 jobs and was 48th in job creation when Democratic opponent Ted Strickland was governor, which coincided with the national recession.
“Forty-seven other governors figured it out,” Portman said.
Strickland said Ohio had the fifth-fastest growing economy when he left office.
“I left office when Ohio was on the road to recovery, and we are experiencing that even today,” Strickland said.
In opening remarks, Portman emphasized his work to stop human trafficking, fight the country’s heroin epidemic and aid struggling steel workers.
He called himself an independent voice for Ohio in a debate Friday in Youngstown.
“I’m a common sense conservative who focuses on results,” Portman said.
Strickland cited his working class roots as he criticized Portman for siding with supporting trade deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Strickland said have cost American jobs.
“The Rob Portman story is one of wealth, power and privilege,” Strickland said.
Portman has been well ahead of Strickland in fundraising and polls.
The two meet again in Columbus on Monday and in Cleveland on Oct. 20.
Both candidates took to Twitter ahead of the debate.
This is the first of three debates between Portman and Strickland. The other debates will be held in Columbus and Cleveland.