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Pillich urges Democrats to unite behind Cordray

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    Connie Pillich

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    Gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray speaks after receiving the endorsement of Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley during a news conference, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, in Cincinnati.

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COLUMBUS —The last woman standing in the Democratic gubernatorial field dropped out of the race Wednesday and urged the party to unite behind Richard Cordray after her own campaign failed to catch fire.

“As the GOP rallies around Mike DeWine and promises more of the same destructive policies that have put our state into the terrible situation it is in now, it is time to come together,” said Connie Pillich, a former Cincinnati state representative.

“Democrats have got to come together,” she said with Mr. Cordray at her side. “We’ve got to put aside our differences, and we have to unite.”

Mr. Cordray’s would-be lieutenant governor, Betty Sutton, was quick to remind reporters that there’s still a woman on the ticket. And Mr. Cordray downplayed the significance that Republicans still have a female gubernatorial candidate in Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.

“The Ohio Republican Party, as an organized matter, intends to put a ticket in front of the voters of this state that includes all white males,” Mr. Cordray said. “They have endorsed against the two women who are running for office on their side, and I think that speaks for itself…

“At this point the position of the Ohio Republican Party is they don’t seem to care about diversity,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to matter to them. I think that’s looking backward, rather than forward.”

Official Democratic candidates for statewide executive office include a woman running for secretary of state and African American and Indian American men competing for the party’s nomination for treasurer.

Ms Pillich entered the race last March in hopes of replacing Republican Gov. John Kasich. She served several years in the Ohio House, winning a district that on paper should have gone Republican and continued to win even as the district was redrawn to become more Republican. She was the party’s unsuccessful candidate for state treasurer in 2014.

She brought her background in the U.S. Air Force to the table and participated in three officially sanctioned Democratic debates. She selected Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer as her running mate, issued position papers, and filed petitions last week to officially become a candidate.

But she never broke out from the pack. Mr. Cordray entered the race in December and soon picked Ms. Sutton as his running mate, eliminating one female opponent. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley dropped out last month and also threw her support to Mr. Cordray.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D., Boardman) is the only one still standing of the original candidates that participated in the debates.

Ms. Sutton, a former Akron area congressman, dismissed Mr. Schiavoni’s suggestion that the party is making a mistake by coalescing behind a single candidate so far ahead of the May 8 primary election.

“When we hear this sort of nonsense that somehow (Mr. Cordray) has been anointed in this race, it is just that,” she said. “It’s nonsense. He has been fighting for this moment, learning, gaining experience, showing his ability to come up with solutions to real problems, and make a real difference.”

Mr. Cordray recently resigned as the first head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after serving in Ohio as attorney general, treasurer, and state representative.

Also still in the race are former Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill, former Cleveland congressman Dennis Kucinich, Cleveland physician Jonathan Heavey, Alliance political newcomer Paul E. Ray, and frequent Dayton candidate Larry Ealy.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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