Ohio Senate candidate Ted Strickland joked about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Monday, saying it came "at a good time" for union workers since he was unable to cast the deciding vote in a March case that ended up in a 4-4 deadlock.
According to a video posted on YouTube Tuesday by NTK Network, Strickland made the remarks in Cleveland, telling AFL-CIO members that Scalia's death "saved labor" from a terrible decision in the case, which could have dealt a blow to the ability of public-sector unions to collect fees from those who decide against joining the union and pay for collective bargaining activities.
"In about three and a half months, we'll make a decision about who occupies the executive branch, what party controls the Senate, and growing out of those two decisions will be the future of the United States Supreme Court," the former governor told attendees. "And my friends, a lot of average citizens out there don't understand the importance of that court.
"I mean, the death of Scalia saved labor from a terrible decision," Strickland said to cheers, with laughter soon filling the room as he made the joke. "And I don't wish anyone ill, but it happened at a good time because once that decision had been made, it would have been tough to reverse it."
Strickland apologized in a statement to the Washington Examiner Wednesday morning. "That was an insensitive remark and I apologize."
Strickland is trailing incumbent Sen. Rob Portman with less than three months to go until election day. According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, Portman leads the former governor by a nearly 6-point margin.
In March, President Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill Scalia's vacancy on the court, but Republicans immediately their intention to not hold hearings or to take his nomination up for a vote until a new president is sworn into office.