COLUMBUS — Democrats are sending a former U.S. Air Force Capt. Connie Pillich to do battle with the proven political firepower of Republican Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a former Marine.
State Rep. Pillich, a Cincinnati-area attorney, today officially announced her candidacy for the 2014 race to serve as the state’s top banker and investor.
Democrats see political strength in Ms. Pillich, who has survived several close scrapes in a highly competitive district. She performed well last year despite a new Republican-drawn, suburban 25th District and again being one of the party’s chief targets.
“…(F)rankly, it’s about time we had a real leader in the treasurer’s office,” Ms. Pillich said. “Ohio needs someone who actually wants to be treasurer, someone who will show up to do the job and put qualified people to work with her.”
She was referring to criticisms of Mr. Mandel that became issues in his failed challenge last year to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Mr. Mandel was criticized for missing Board of Deposit meetings during his early tenure while he was raising money for his Senate run and for putting some of his campaign operatives on the treasurer’s staff despite their lack of a financial background.
It has been clear for months that the Ohio Democratic Party was recruiting Ms. Pillich for the race as its 2014 field takes shape. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald and former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper have already announced their bids for the party’s nod to take on Republican Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine, respectively.
State Sen. Nina Turner (D., Cleveland) and state Rep. John Patrick Carney (D., Columbus) are expected to jump into the ring to challenge Secretary of State Jon Husted and Auditor Dave Yost.
The slate represents Democrats’ attempt to regain a toehold in statewide executive office after being swept from office by the GOP tide in 2010 that also led to Republicans regaining control of the General Assembly.
“Ultimately, the challenges Ohioans face aren’t Republican or Democrat,” Ms. Pillich said. “They’re just challenges. The solutions I’ll work for won’t be tied to one party or another. As treasurer, I’ll fight for the best ideas that produce the best results [for] Ohio’s families and seniors.”
On paper, the two treasurer candidates start out relatively even in terms of campaign funding. As of roughly the end of the year, Ms. Pillich had $25,162 in the bank compared to Mr. Mandel’s $219, both paltry amounts compared to the millions expected to be raised in an office that gets plenty of attention from the banking and investment industry.
Mr. Mandel, a prolific fund-raiser, spent much of the last two years raising money for his campaign against Mr. Brown, but any money raised for that federal race cannot be used in a state race. Though unsuccessful, the race kept the former state representative’s face and name in the news in a way that serving as state treasurer doesn’t typically do, absent scandal.
“Josh Mandel has worked tirelessly for Ohioans as a watchdog of our tax dollars, and his record of cutting his own budget, modernizing his office, and earning a AAA credit rating on the multi-billion dollar investment fund he manages, speaks for itself,” said Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges.
“By contrast, state Rep. Connie Pillich joined her fellow Democrats in pursuing disastrous fiscal policies that led to an $8 billion budget deficit,” he said. “Connie Pillich is part of the problem that Governor Kasich, Treasurer Mandel, and others have been working to fix since they were elected in 2010.”