CLEVELAND — Former State Rep. Connie Pillich is planning a fundraiser headlined by one of her most prominent backers, in a sign she is continuing with her campaign for governor as other Democratic candidates recently have decided to drop out.
The Jan. 30 fundraiser with Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor and ex-chair of the Democratic National Committee, will be held at a downtown Columbus law office. A flier, which was distributed to Democratic donors on Monday, asks for donations ranging from $500 to $2,500 a person. The event will be held the day before Ohio candidates report their second-half 2017 fundraising totals, when Pillich will face pressure to show she has enough cash on hand to compete.
Rendell endorsed Pillich, who at the time was among six Democratic governor candidates, last month. But the race has changed drastically in recent weeks, as Richard Cordray quit his job as the head as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to run for governor, and Dennis Kucinich, the former Cleveland mayor and ex-Congressman, has said he plans to enter himself.
On the heels of those two developments, the other two women running for governor have exited the race — former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton became Cordray’s running mate on Wednesday, while Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley dropped out and endorsed Cordray on Friday. Some Democrats have argued that a larger field only benefits candidates like Kucinich or Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, neither of whom are popular with party insiders, but who could pull off an upset win. But Democrats also are concerned about the optics of two male candidates showing up late and clearing the field of female candidates who had been campaigning for almost a year.
In a strategy memo released to reporters on Friday, Pillich Campaign Manager Eric Goldman made it clear Pillich plans to stay in the race. He argued Pillich has a path to victory as the only remaining female candidate in the Democratic primary — and the only candidate from Southern Ohio — amid an electoral climate he argued that will benefit qualified female candidates. He also argued that the departure of Sutton and Whaley opened doors for Pillich to tap into national networks of female political donors.
In a Monday email, Goldman said Pillich hasn’t been pressured to drop out of the race in light of recent developments.
“Everywhere in the state that Connie has traveled, she’s been met with enthusiastic support from women ready to elect Ohio’s first female governor,” Goldman said. “That sentiment is echoed by national trends over the last 12 months from the women’s march to Virginia’s delegate elections. Women have had enough and are fired up to create change.”