Pillich to leave Ohio Governor's race, back Cordray

CFPB / MGN

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Ohio Democrats' lone female gubernatorial candidate will leave the race Wednesday to back rival Richard Cordray, as the former federal consumer watchdog positions for his hoped-for bid against Republican Mike DeWine, a source said.

A Democrat close to Cordray's campaign told The Associated Press that former state Rep. Connie Pillich will drop out and endorse Cordray at an event the campaign announced Tuesday. The person requested anonymity because the information hadn't been made public yet.

Pillich's decision comes on the heels of a positive wave for her long shot bid amid the crowded Democratic field.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell campaigned and raised money for her and she won the endorsement of EMILY's List, a politically influential group that elects women who favor abortion rights.

With both efforts, Pillich touted her position as the only woman Democrat left running - which might have helped her in a year of #MeToo backlash that's expected to see a surge in female voters.

She now becomes the third female candidate to leave the race and back Cordray. Earlier, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton dropped her gubernatorial bid to become Cordray's running mate and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley also left the race and endorsed him.

Pillich's decision leaves four main contenders in the Democratic primary in addition to Cordray: former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O'Neill, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni and Cleveland physician and venture capitalist Jon Heavey.

The Ohio Republican Party last week endorsed DeWine over his primary rival, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. That backing, along with a significant fundraising advantage and high name recognition among voters has led to predictions that DeWine will prevail in May's primary.

GOP Gov. John Kasich is term-limited and unable to run again.

Schiavoni, the last among four original gubernatorial candidates that began campaigning and debating early last year, said Pillich's exit launches "a whole new primary."

"Sadly, this is the next step in the political playbook," he said in a statement. "Another qualified candidate drops out because insiders say there's only one choice. But we all know Democrats lose when we follow the political playbook. This year, I'm going to provide another option."