Updated 11:36 a.m. | The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee threw its weight behind former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland Tuesday — a sign the national party is trying to avoid a primary in a key 2016 state.
Strickland currently faces Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld for the Democratic nod in the Buckeye State. Both hope to challenge GOP Sen. Rob Portman, who is seeking re-election in a state President Barack Obama carried in 2008 and 2012.
“Ted Strickland has a long record of fighting for working folks in Ohio and there is no question that he is the strongest candidate to defeat Rob Portman," DSCC Executive Director Tom Lopach said in a statement. "We look forward to supporting Ted Strickland’s campaign and are confident that he will be a great Senator.”
The DSCC marks the latest in a string of high-profile party endorsements for Strickland.
On Monday, Sen. Sherrod Brown backed Strickland. Reps. Tim Ryan, Marcia L. Fudge and Joyce Beatty endorsed Strickland last week.
Though Sittenfeld was the first Democrat to announce a bid for the race, Democrats expected Sittenfeld to drop out of the contest once Strickland got in.
But in an email to supporters last week, Sittenfeld said he was "all in" for the race. Sittenfeld remained unmoved by the DSCC's endorsement Tuesday, saying in a statement to CQ Roll Call he will continue to communicate with voters.
Democrats worry a contested primary would cost the eventual nominee cash that could be used against Portman in the general election.
Portman will be a formidable challenger. He is a strong fundraiser and ended last year with $5.8 million in the bank.
The race is rated Leans Republican by The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.
-Alexis Levinson contributed to this report Related Stories: Russ Feingold, Joe Sestak and the Improbable Senate Race Rematch Ted Strickland Announces Senate Run in Ohio Democrats Skeptical Ted Strickland Will Face Primary How Republicans Could Risk a Senate Seat to Win the White House The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.