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Sittenfeld: I'm staying in Senate race, to give voters "a voice and a choice"

Sarah Ramsey

Saying he wants to give Ohio Democrats "a competition, not a coronation," Cincinnati city council member P.G. Sittenfeld said in Columbus this morning he will stay in the U.S. Senate race, despite pressure within his own party to withdraw.

Nearly the entire Democratic Party establishment, in Ohio and nationally, is backing former Ohio governor Ted Strickland over the 30-year-old Cincinnati council member.

In front of the Ohio Statehouse Thursday morning, Sittenfeld laid out his reasons for running, saying he wants to give voters in next March's Democratic U.S. Senate primary "a voice and a choice."

"History shows - and great Ohio Democrats like John Glenn, Howard Metzenbaum and Dick Celeste proved - that testing our candidates in a primary almost always makes us stronger in a general election,'' Sittenfeld said, according to a text of the speech.

Sittenfeld and the 73-year-old Strickland are vying for the chance to face Republican incumbent Rob Portman in the November 2016 election.

The 30-year-old Cincinnati council member has been under pressure from party leaders to get out of next spring’s primary contest with former Ohio governor Ted Strickland.

Strickland has the backing of the Ohio Democratic Party, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, former President Bill Clinton and other party leaders.

Sittenfeld, in his speech, said it is "long past time to have a Senate that looks more like America. The Senate needs more women, minorities, and, yes, young people."

If elected to the Senate, Sittenfeld will be 32 years old. The minimum age for a U.S. Senator is 30.

"Though the millennial generation of which I am a member is the largest and most technologically savvy in history, not a single one of us serves in the U.S. Senate,'' Sittenfeld said.

Sittenfeld said that, if elected, he pledges "to make fixing the student debt problem one of my top priorities."

The Cincinnati council member said he would also "fight to increase" Social Security benefits and pay for it "by removing the income cap that allows millionaires and billionaires to avoid their fair share of taxes."

Strickland campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue said the former governor's campaign would not respond to Sittenfeld's announcement.

"We continue to be focused on Rob Portman's votes to out-source Ohio jobs,'' Donohue said.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.