Ohio’s former Democrat governor and current U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland joked about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at a fundraiser on Monday, according to audio released on YouTube.
“I mean, the death of Scalia saved labor from a terrible decision,” the candidate declared. He elicited laughter with the next comment: “And I don’t wish anyone ill [laughs], but it happened at a good time. Because once that decision had been made, it would have been tough to reverse it.”
In late March, the court broke 4-4 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case involving whether or not teachers would have to pay dues to a union they did not choose to join. Lower courts favored the union, and the Supreme Court’s division allowed the lower decision to stand. Strickland was referring to this decision, which did not set a precedent but showed the new liberal bent on the court.
Strickland added that “everything we care about — labor rights, voting rights, human rights, environmental policy — everything we care about will be at risk if Donald Trump and a Republican Senate can refashion the Supreme Court.”
He later apologized in a statement to the Washington Examiner, saying, “That was an insensitive remark and I apologize.”
The Founders would be rolling in their graves if they heard that the Supreme Court had become a political issue — but they would become even more angry to hear a candidate for U.S. Senate joking about the death of a justice, saying that it was aptly timed for his political agenda.
The audio was released just before Strickland’s major ad campaign launched on Wednesday. In his first ad, the former Ohio governor emphasized his middle class roots, recalling how he lost two homes as a child, and emphasizing his opposition to “bad trade deals.”
Strickland’s ad neglects to mention how his $1.5 billion tax hike as governor cost Ohio 400,000 jobs, which “left Ohio for neighboring states with better tax and regulatory climates,” according to the non-profit advocacy group Freedom Partners Action Fund.
Despite his new ad buy, Strickland lags Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman in fundraising. Strickland ended June with $4 million, compared to Portman’s $13 million.
Portman also leads in the RealClearPolitics polling average by 5.7 percent (46 percent to Strickland’s 40.3 percent).
Portman’s seat was considered a particularly vulnerable one for Republicans this cycle, but it seems increasingly likely that he will hold on to it in November — Especially if Strickland continues to make fun of the dead.
Listen to the damning audio on the next page.