Democrat Connie Pillich picks Marion mayor as running mate

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Democratic candidate for Ohio governor selected a local government official with Democratic roots and appeal among rural Republican voters as her running mate.

Former state lawmaker Connie Pillich said Thursday that Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer has the ability to speak for the difficulties faced by Ohio’s local communities.

“Scott Schertzer had to make hard choices and tough calls during the depths of the Recession (that were) compounded by a state government that actively took away tools from local public safety and first responders,” she said in a statement announcing the choice. “Scott has experience making tough decisions under pressure, and that’s exactly the type of leadership Ohio needs.”

Schertzer, 51, has been mayor of Marion since 2008 and is current president of the Ohio Municipal League. Before taking office, he spent 13 years as a public school teacher. He also worked in the offices of two influential Democrats, then-Ohio Treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow and then-Secretary of State Sherrod Brown, now U.S. senator.

Pillich faces a five-way Democratic primary for a spot in the general election contest to succeed Republican Gov. John Kasich, who’s term-limited. Others in the race are former consumer protection chief Richard Cordray, former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni and Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor are seeking the nomination on the Republican side.

Schertzer is the third running mate among Democrats with ties to education. Schiavoni picked a member of the state school board as his lieutenant governor contender, and O’Neill picked a former teacher and elementary school principal.

Schertzer said he’s eager to help Pillich carry out her vision for the state.

“Ohio needs an energetic and enthusiastic team who will fight for a fair funding formula for our schools, reverse the attacks on local public safety and first responders, and who can beat Mike DeWine and Jon Husted in November,” he said.

Both Pillich and Schertzer have histories of winning red areas of Ohio, a politically divided swing state. Pillich, a U.S. Air Force veteran, held Ohio House districts in the Republican-leaning suburbs of Cincinnati while Schertzer is the first Democratic mayor of GOP-dominated Marion in decades.

Candidates face a Feb. 7 deadline to declare candidacy, name a running mate and collect the required signatures.

By Julie Carr Smyth

Associated Press