Ex-Ohio governor takes position at advocacy fund

JULIE CARR SMYTH AP Statehouse Correspondent Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio's former governor was tapped Wednesday to promote liberal causes in his home state and across the country as head of an influential Washington think tank's advocacy arm.

Democrat Ted Strickland begins his job as president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund on April 1.

Strickland said in an interview with The Associated Press that he has not entirely ruled out a run against U.S. Sen. Rob Portman in 2016, but he considers heading CAP Action "a dream job" and will devote all his energies to it.

"My honest answer to you today is that I have no plans to run for an office in the future," he said. "But I've always adhered to the philosophy that life sort of unfolds and you deal with problems and opportunities as they arise."

As the fund's president, Strickland will control a budget of about $7 million and oversee two key operations: the closely-followed Think Progress political blog, which sees 6 million unique hits a month, and the CAP Action War Room, which turns Center for American Progress research into action and advocacy.

Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden, considered one of Washington's leading agenda-setters, said Strickland's experience in Ohio will translate well to the job.

"At a time when a growing number of Americans are struggling to move up the economic ladder, his experience at the center of domestic policy debates at the state level gives him unique insights," she said. "As former governor of Ohio, Ted understands the economic challenges families face on a daily basis, and his work on these issues will be an important asset in the debates going forward."

Strickland said traveling the country to talk about causes such as minimum-wage increases, immigration, pay equity, workers' rights, women's and voting issues and gay marriage will be a central part of the job.

"This position will give me the opportunity to do what I sought to do during my 12 years in Congress and my four years in the governor's office, and that's to promote policies that are good for average working families," he said.

Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf questioned the hire.

"I'm sure Ohio workers and families are grateful that he is taking his record of losing 350,000 jobs and amassing an $8 billion budget shortfall out of Ohio," he said. "What's scary is to think that anyone would want to replicate Strickland's failed record elsewhere."

Working at the nonprofit precludes Strickland, Ohio's most recent Democratic governor, from making commercials or holding fundraisers for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald in his likely fall campaign against Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Kasich ousted Strickland from Ohio's governorship in 2010.

Strickland said working for the nonprofit will give him a forum to continue working for causes he believes in despite losing that election.

"For me, it's the perfect job, and I'm really excited about it," he said. "It will give me the opportunity outside of elective office to work on the things I care about and to be in some ways even more effective than I was able to be as an officeholder."

Strickland said he'll be based in Washington but continue maintaining a residence in Ohio with his wife, Frances.