COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A political action committee dedicated to electing Democratic women on Tuesday endorsed Connie Pillich, the lone female remaining in the Democratic May primary for governor.
Backing from EMILY's List could help boost Pillich, a former Air Force captain and ex-state lawmaker, in a five-way primary that includes former federal consumer watchdog Richard Cordray and former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
Cordray, a former state attorney general and treasurer, and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O'Neill planned to turn in their petitions on Tuesday, a day ahead of the filing deadline. The fifth candidate is Youngstown-area state Sen. Joe Schiavoni.
EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock praised Pillich as an experienced and passionate leader - but also noted her gender amid a wave of women seeking election around the country.
"Ohio has never before elected a woman governor, and it's beyond time to have a woman like Connie at the helm of the Buckeye State," Schriock said in a statement. "With Republican state legislators pushing dangerous legislation that puts women's health care and economic well-being in jeopardy, it is vital that women have an ally in the corner office. Connie has always been a champion for women and families, which is why EMILY's List is proud to endorse her."
At one point last year, Pillich faced a pair of potentially formidable female rivals for the Democratic nomination. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley left the race and endorsed Cordray, and former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton abandoned her bid and signed on as Cordray's running mate.
Cordray formerly led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and is expected to bring support from such high-profile Democrats as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to the campaign trail. He also has raised more money than his rivals, despite late entry into the race.
Kucinich has been rolling out detailed policy initiatives on topics including energy, education and other topics, and Schiavoni has begun airing online ads promoting his track record as a state senator and workers' compensation attorney.
Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine and GOP Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor are seeking their party's nomination. Two-term Republican Gov. John Kasich is term-limited and unable to seek re-election.