COLUMBUS (AP) – A third Democrat left the Ohio governor’s race on Wednesday and endorsed former consumer watchdog Richard Cordray.
Former state Rep. Connie Pillich said she made her decision over the weekend after Ohio Republican Party leaders voted to endorse Attorney General Mike DeWine over Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor in a particularly bitter gubernatorial primary.
“As the GOP rallies around Mike DeWine and promises more of the destructive policies that have put our state into the careless situation it is now, it is time to come together,” said Pillich, speaking at Cordray campaign headquarters on Wednesday. “Democrats have to come together, we have to put aside our differences and we have to unite.”
Pillich’s withdrawal leaves no woman leading a Democratic ticket, but she, Cordray and Cordray’s former rival and running mate, Betty Sutton, said that doesn’t mean women will play a back seat role.
“I do feel very, very strongly that it’s important that we put women in positions of leadership and influence,” Pillich said. “And, you know what, you’ve got two women right here in pretty strong positions of influence and leadership.”
Sutton said Cordray is running a non-traditional campaign where diverse interests are represented “not just at one table, not just in a symbolic way, but in a real and substantive way at every table and in numbers that will matter.”
Cordray dismissed as “a dumb comment” Democratic state Sen. Joe Schiavoni’s suggestion that party insiders are forcing aside qualified candidates to help hand Cordray the nomination. He said he’s gathering talented Democrats into a coalition that can win against Republicans.
“We’re running in a primary election. What do you do? You go out and seek support. When you’re getting support, that’s good. When you’re not getting support, that’s bad,” Cordray said. “We will continue to go out and seek support and build support until, ultimately, what we will do is win the primary race, which is the goal.”
Also contending for the Democratic nomination are: Schiavoni, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill and Cleveland doctor and venture capitalist Jon Heavey.
Pillich and Sutton, a former congresswoman, pushed back on questions of the gender implications of their and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley’s decisions to leave the race.
Sutton said the 58-year-old Cordray has “earned his way” to the top of the political ticket through decades of public service at the local, state and federal levels – including as Ohio’s state treasurer and attorney general and founding director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“When we hear this sort of nonsense that somehow he has been anointed in this race, it is just that: It’s nonsense,” Sutton said. “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.”