- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) - A Cincinnati city councilman running for U.S. Senate proposed six Democratic primary debates around Ohio with his veteran opponent.

P.G. Sittenfeld on Tuesday said he and former Gov. Ted Strickland should have issue-oriented sessions to engage, inform and excite voters. He said the two can use social media and technology to reach more people in “a new kind of debate for a new era in politics.”

The 30-year-old councilman has rejected suggestions that Democrats should unite behind Strickland, a 73-year-old former congressman, in their quest to unseat Republican Sen. Rob Portman in what’s shaping up as a high-spending, hotly contested 2016 race. Sittenfeld said Democrats should have a choice and that new leadership is needed in Washington.

In a video posted on his YouTube page, Sittenfeld pointed out that the Democratic National Committee has sanctioned six debates for the party’s presidential primary.

“I’m proposing that we also have six debates that allow citizens to compare our visions for the future side-by-side,” Sittenfeld said, adding that the debates could focus on issues such as the economy, education and environment and could begin as soon as July 4 for next spring’s primary.

A Strickland campaign spokesman said Sittenfeld hadn’t contacted Strickland about his proposal, so the campaign isn’t aware of it.

“But there will be plenty of opportunity to debate the issues as the campaign goes on,” spokesman Dennis Willard said.

Meanwhile, Don Elijah Eckhart of the Columbus area said Tuesday he plans to challenge Portman in the GOP primary. The 65-year-old former state legislative service commission employee and instructor ran unsuccessfully as an independent for Congress in 2008.

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Contact the reporter at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell

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