In 2004, a bullet fired by her then husband’s gun tore into Kelli Prather’s back. Although the wound was not life threatening, she required surgery, which only aided in the recovery of the physical wounds she suffered. Sufficided to say, Kelli Prather, the third Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, has some thoughts on gun violence. As a Black Lives Matter activist and occupational therapist, she knows the long journey those that survive gun violence faces. She remembers, vividly, the incidents of unarmed African Americans being shot under questionable circumstances and killed by Cincinnati police officers around the turn of the century. She doesn’t talk about gun violence because her pollster says it’s the best line of attack against Ted Strickland (she doesn’t have one). She has four nephews killed by gun violence. When she speaks about the issues, its personal and authentic.
So twelve years after she was shot, Kelli Prather is sitting on stage next to fellow Cincinnatian and Democratic opponent P.G. Sittenfeld during the Cleveland City Club Democratic Senate debate. When the issue of Planned Parenthood comes up, Prather talks about her personal experience relying on Planned Parenthood for medical care, calling Governor Kasich’s signing of legislation to defund it in Ohio “heartbreaking.” When Sittenfeld talks about Planned Parenthood, he brags about the headlines he’s generated in talking about it.
When the Affordable Care Act and single payer comes up, Sittenfeld, who is trying to portray himself as a progressive champion to the left of Ted Strickland demurrs and talks about drug pricing controls instead. Kelli Prather, unapologetically says she supports single payer and, while noting its shortcoming, acknowledges that the Affordable Care Act was huge step in the right direction. When P.G. Sittenfeld talks about health care, he talks about the uninsured rate dropping. When Kelli Prather talks about health care, she talks about having a medical condition as a child that caused her parents to legally seperate so they could get around lifetime insurance caps and qualify for government assistance so she could continue to get care.
When the issue of gun violence came up, Sittenfeld eagerly couldn’t stay in his seat until it was his turn to talk. Literally. Despite the fact that the moderator and Prather and, until that point, Sittenfeld, had answered every question whille sitting around a table, Sittenfeld jumped out of his chair, grabbed the first empty chair he could reach from the stage, put it on there and began to literally give Ted Strickland the Clint Eastwood treatment. Sittenfeld, now figuratively and literally grandstanding, used the opportunity, not talk about gun violence or its victims, but to complain that Ted Strickland refused to debate him. All the theaterics to whine about his campaign, down fifty points to Strickland and 25 to Portman, being dissed by the front runner.
Prather could hardly hide her visible disdain for Sittenfeld’s political theater.
The second Sittenfeld was done (and put his prop chair awkwardly back off the stage) Prather said:
“I want to respond to that. Well, thank you for that dramatic stance on gun control…” She then mentions how she has been working on the issue for twenty-five years in the Cincinnati area. In reviewing recent incidents of gun violence in their mutual Cincinnati Community, Prather noted:
“I have never seen [Sittenfeld] in the community on ANY of these incidents.”
Sittenfeld basically called her a liar and said he was on the front lines of urban areas, again citing AG Lynch’s praise of the police reforms Cincinnati made. However, those reforms were reached in that agreement in 2002 (Kelli Prather was an activist pushing for these reforms.) P.G. Sittenfeld’s first Cincinnati campaign wasn’t until 2011, nearly a decade later.
Even worse, Sittenfeld then tried to claim he was the top vote getter in Cincinnati BECAUSE of his incredible record on gun violence. That’s nonsense. First of all, until he ran for the U.S. Senate and had polling telling him guns may be the only wedge issue to wrestle Democratic support away from Ted Strickland, Sittenfeld never campaigned on gun violence. You cannot find a single ad Sittenfeld ran in either of his two previous elections to support his claim he won votes on his achievements (none of which he could apparently name except reforms that had been place for nearly a decade before he took office) on gun violence. Sittenfeld won broad bipartisan support for two reasons: he ran the most expensive city council campaigns and ran as a pro-business/anti-regulation candidate who opposed the streetcar that Tea Party groups vehemently opposed at the time. Gun violence was never one of the issues Sittenfeld has discussed as City Councilman.
When Kelli Prather pointed out that Sittenfeld hasn’t been involved in these issues, it just cemented how inauthentic he is. According to the only available primary polling in the race, Sittenfeld is fifty points behind Strickland and tied with Prather. Some have question how that could be when she has no money (some would say no name recognition, but according to mulitple polls, neither does Sittenfeld. P.G. Sittenfeld, after all, as a professional campaign of some of the oldest politics hacks in Democratic politics, after all. His campaign spends $8,500 a month for Dale Butland to hone his public image. He has a Super PAC, run by his wealthy attorney friends and largest donors are two Cincinnati families, one of which just happens to be his own, and Cincinnati developers looking for some pay-to-play politics.
P.G. Sittenfeld, with his Ivy League education and pedigree political consultants, never viewed Kelli Prather as a credible opponent. He came into the debate thinking he would make it about an empty chair. Kelli Prather made it about an empty suit instead.