The offices of the International Association of Theater and Screen Employees were the opening media event site for Ohio Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland’s three-day sojourn around Ohio to contrast his agenda with incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s, especially on  issues including economic fairness and getting earned pay for overtime work.

Wednesday’s media event featuring Ted Strickland speaking to a small group about wealth disparities and pay for work was dubbed the “You Work It, You Earn It” Tour. Ohio’s former chief executive contrasted his candidacy with that of Republican Rob Portman’s by discussing his Ohio Families First Plan, which includes issues like fair overtime pay, fighting retirement insecurity, ensuring equal pay for equal work and his proposed middle class tax cut. Dishonest employers routinely short change their workers with little fear of wage-law enforcement consequences, and Mr. Strickland isn’t having any of it.

Listen to his presentation:

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, whose one term [2006-2010] included the Great Recession and its economic destruction, won the Democratic primary in March going away without campaign spending. His ordeal to defeat Rob Portman in the fall is tough but doable. Portman, a Cincinnati Republican who worked in two capacities for President George W. Bush, first as his budget director and then as his trade representative, is vulnerable like all Republicans are on issues of retirement security that invariably involve GOP proposals to work longer and or get less in retirement years.

The fact that polls show this race tied is remarkable, indeed, given the wave of anti-Strickland spending by Portman’s campaign and allies to date, with even more on the way before and after national conventions in Cleveland, for Republicans, and Philadelphia for Democrats.

On Wednesday Ted Strickland launched his three-day tour of Ohio called “You Work It, You Earn It.” Mr. Strickland arrived to an audience of 15 who gathered on the second floor at the IATSE—a union group that endorsed Ted Strickland for governor and endorsed him for senator today. Two men and 13 women listened to Mr. Strickland talk about wealth accumulation, wage disparity and tax reforms he’d make if elected. In the spirit of Ross Perot, Mr. Strickland used two charts to show the growing disparity over time between the wealthiest and pretty much everyone else.

The purpose of this campaign event was to highlight his proposals——”to make sure working families get the fair pay they deserve”——in contrast to Sen. Portman’s record of ‘pushing the agenda of the wealthy and well-connected,” as Strickland media defined it.

“Ohio’s middle class is feeling squeezed because working people aren’t getting a fair deal: they’re working hard but wages are staying flat, costs are rising, and workers aren’t getting paid what they deserve,” Ted Strickland said in prepared remarks. “This isn’t an accident – it’s happening because Washington insiders like Senator Portman are pushing the agenda of the wealthy and the well-connected at the expense of Ohio’s working families,” said Ted Strickland. “I believe in a simple principle — If you work it, you should earn it. That means Ohioans should get paid for the overtime hours they work, women should get equal pay, and all Ohioans should get the retirement benefits they’ve earned by paying into Social Security and Medicare. In the U.S. Senate, I will stand up for Ohio’s working families at every turn because that’s where I’m from, that’s who I care about and that’s who I’ll always put first.”

Anita Beck, a retired realtor, Daloras Bartlett, a former educator and activist, and Jean Fightmaster, a retired public worker from Ohio each raised issues with Social Security or the privatization of public education, to which Mr. Strickland tried to offer thoughtful responses.

Among Sen. Portman’s rap sheet on not supporting Social Security is his vote against an Amendment proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren and supported by 42 Senator a year ago “To establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to expanding Social Security.”

Mr. Portman, like Gov. Kasich, is big on privatizing the most important social safety net program in the nation’s history. On privatization, Mr. Portman has said, “There’s also Social Security ideas there, including private accounts….President Bush has demonstrated political courage and leadership on this issue….”

On raising the retirement age and other cuts, Sen. Portman, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, called for “Adjusting Social Security and Medicare’s retirement ages, [and] means-testing benefits for upper-income retirees…”

Speaking with reporters following the event, Ted Strickland talked about what Hillary Clinton needs to do to raise her favorable ratings, the many flaws of Donald Trump, and the prospect of President Obama joining the campaign season this year, unlike previous election cycles when he largely sat on the sidelines, and bringing his coalition to turn out the vote with him.