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Democrats to choose between Senate candidates with 43-year age gap

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CLEVELAND - Ohio Democrats will have a generational choice when they decide next week between the two candidates vying to be the party's nominee for a U.S. Senate seat now held by Rob Portman, a Cincinnati Republican.

There are 43 years between the two men. Ted Strickland, a former Ohio Governor and Congressman, is 74. His opponent, P.G. Sittenfeld, a two-term Cincinnati council member, is 31.

One area where the two men are in agreement is that, if Donald Trump emerges as the GOP nominee for president, it could split Republican voters. That would make Senator Portman more vulnerable in the November election.

P.G. Sittenfeld

P.G. Sittenfeld

"I think Rob Portman probably falls asleep at night having cold sweats about Donald Trump being the nominee," Sittenfeld said.

"He's a bigot, he's intolerant," Strickland said of Trump. "I don't think he'll ever win Ohio and, if he does badly in Ohio, I think it will help me in my race for the Senate."

Strickland appears at times to be looking past Sittenfeld towards a general election showdown with Portman. Sittenfeld said not so fast, remember what happened when Strickland was a sitting governor running against John Kasich.

"There was a time, just a couple months before the 2010 election, when Ted Strickland was up double digits on John Kasich," Sittenfeld said, "and we know how that race turned out."

Guns and the National Rifle Association have merged as central issues in the campaign. Strickland once represented a southeastern Ohio congressional district where, he said, most people supported the NRA.

"He voted against the Brady Bill," Sittenfeld said of Strickland, "and he voted against the ban on assault weapons that even Ronald Reagan supported... That's how you get an A+ rating from the NRA."

Ted Strickland

Ted Strickland

"For a period of time, I had a relationship with the NRA," Strickland said. "They endorsed me. I severed that relationship about five years ago because I felt they had become increasingly radicalized and unreasonable."

Both  men see themselves as having the best chance of winning in November.

"The way to beat Rob Portman is by putting up a fresh face. Rob Portman doesn't want to stand side-by-side with me because we can make this race about a choice for new leadership," Sittenfeld said.

"Sometimes, you can be old and have new, creative ideas. And sometimes, you can be young, and have old ideas. I think I have ideas that will move Ohio forward," Strickland said.

Democratic voters will make their decision between the two candidates on March 15.

Continuing coverage of You Decide 2016 here