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By Alexis Levinson, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat, announced Wednesday morning he will challenge Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) in 2016.

“I’m running for the United States Senate in 2016 because I am determined to restore the American Dream for working people in this country,” Strickland said in a statement emailed to reporters.

Democrats need to gain five seats in 2016 to secure a majority, and in a presidential year, that path could run through Ohio.

This Senate race will not be an easy one for Democrats. Portman is a strong fundraiser: He started 2015 with a $5.8 million war chest and will likely add to that sum after the March 31 deadline. The senator began building his campaign team late last month, hiring a campaign manager, a political director, and a fundraiser.

But Strickland will likely be a formidable challenger. A fixture in Ohio politics, he served as governor from 2006 to 2010 following six non-consecutive House terms.

One Democrat is already in the Senate race: Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld launched a campaign a month ago. Many Ohio Democrats expect he will exit the race in the near future now that Strickland is officially running.

In his statement announcing his bid, Strickland mentioned neither Portman nor Sittenfeld.

In a presidential year, when Ohio’s 18 electoral votes are the ultimate prize, the Buckeye State Senate race will likely see a fair bit of action. Strickland is close to former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a likely presidential candidate in 2016.

The race is rated Leans Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.

Photo: Dana Beveridge via Flickr

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