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Connie Pillich stumps for governor in Toledo

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    Connie Pillich, a Democratic candidate for Ohio governor, is interviewed Monday at the Blade.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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    Pillich discussed her jobs plan for Ohio during the interview.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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Ohio candidate for governor Connie Pillich contends her training in the military and her success winning a historically Republican state House of Representatives seat in the Cincinnati area make her the best candidate of the field seeking the Democratic nomination.

She was also the top vote-getter among Democrats running statewide in 2014.


VIDEO: Governor candidate Connie Pillich discusses her jobs plan for Ohio

Ms. Pillich was in Toledo Monday for campaign meetings and was interviewed by The Blade about her candidacy. She is one of five declared candidates for the Democratic nomination, which will be decided in the May, 2018, primary election.

Ms. Pillich, who announced March 13, said she has been to 77 counties so far. She said the purpose of her county visits is to gain information.

“I try to meet with the business community so I can find out what the challenges and successes are, where they see their growth so I know what plans to put together to facilitate that growth,” Ms. Pillich said. 

“The top issues that I’ve seen on the campaign trail are jobs, education, and health care,” Ms. Pillich said.

Ms. Pillich said she grew up near Buffalo, N.Y., in a family where the major employer was Bethlehem Steel. She got an ROTC scholarship to the University of Oklahoma and graduated with a degree in business administration. Ms. Pillich served eight years of active duty in the Air Force, ending as a captain.

She was Air Force recruiter at the University of Cincinnati when she met her husband and end up staying in Cincinnati. She became a lawyer and founded a law firm. She and her husband have two children.

In 2006, Ms. Pillich ran for the statehouse in a district that she said had overwhelmingly elected Republicans in previous years. She lost that year, but came back to win in 2008, 2010, and 2012.

In 2014, she took on incumbent Republican Treasurer Josh Mandel, losing by 43.4 percent to 56.6 percent. Though it was a defeat, her total number of votes and her percentage of the votes was greater than other Democrats running that year for Ohio governor, secretary of state, auditor, and attorney general.

“I’ve got the best leadership training in the world as an officer in the U.S. Air Force,” Ms. Pillich said.

“I’m the only candidate who has even won in a Republican district and I’ve done it three times,” she said.

Ms. Pillich’s Democratic opponents are Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of the Akron area, Youngstown-area Rep. Joe Schiavoni, and Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O'Neill. A potential candidate is Richard Cordray, the Obama-appointee federal consumer watchdog and former Ohio attorney general and treasurer.

RELATED: Former state Rep. Connie Pillich to run for Ohio governor

The Republican Party has four candidates vying for the nomination to succeed Gov. John Kasich who will step down after two terms in office.

Ms. Pillich said her plan for jobs focuses on education, small business needs, statewide high-speed internet, workforce skills and capital, and creating jobs for the 21st century economy.

“Ohio is lagging because we do not have a culture that wants to promote start-ups,” Ms. Pillich said. She added she would extend the Third Frontier program that she said has been “wildly successful.”

“There’s a lot of opportunity for us in the next 20 to 30 years and I want to make sure Ohio is in the front,” she said, citing such areas as additive manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, renewable energy, and aerospace.

She said the Republican-led tax cuts of the last decade have been a disaster for Ohio because they were accomplished, she said, by taking revenue from local government service.

Her education policies call for universal pre-school and a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math. She said she has a plan to make college “debt-free” and evaluations for teachers that are based on more than standardized tests taken by students.

She was critical of charter schools, of which she said 94 percent are failing to perform as well as or better than traditional public schools.

“I’m telling these charter school owners right now if their school is failing I’m going to shut them down,” she said. “I’m going to make sure we have some regulations that we can enforce reasonable standards on.”

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com419-724-6058, or on Twitter @TomFTroy.

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