By all accounts, State Representative Connie Pillich should not even be in the legislature right now. When Governor Strickland appointed then State Representative Jim Raussen to a post at the Ohio Department of Development shortly before the 2008 election (and Raussen accepted), it avoided the 2006 rematch in which Pillich, an Air Force veteran who served in support of both Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield, narrowly lost. After the Republicans quickly unified around a replacement candidate, Pillich narrowly carried the district by a little over 5,000 votes.
In the 2010 election, Pillich was pitted against Mike Wilson, the head of the Cincinnati Tea Party. Despite being the peak of the Tea Party’s influence and an overwhelming pro-Republican turnout tide election, Pillich won re-election by some 600 votes. Wilson would seek a rematch, and he would get an assist from the Republican majority in the legislature and Governor Kasich in redistricting.
The district was redrawn to make it more favorable for Republicans. Pillich was a prime target for a Republican takeover of what had already been a Republican district. Yet, Pillich easily won re-election by roughly eight points.
Today, Connie Pillich announced that she will challenge Josh Mandel for the State Treasurer’s Office. Mandel, whose public image took a beating in his 2012 Senate campaign, has been to the right of John Kasich on such issues as “right-to-work” laws and expanding Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Connie Pillich has defeated the Tea Party twice before. Can she score a trifecta?
“I’m running for Treasurer because working families, small business owners, and seniors need someone who will fight for them. Ohioans deserve a Treasurer who will do the job she was elected to do and will make sure our tax dollars are protected and used wisely,” Pillich said in her press release announcing her candidacy.
“Whether as a captain in the Air Force, a lawyer and owner of a small business, or a representative in the legislature, I’ve dedicated my career to listening to concerns, creating a plan of action, and working hard to deliver real results. I will continue to do that as Treasurer.
“And frankly, it’s about time we had a real leader in the Treasurer’s office. 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.
“Ultimately, the challenges Ohioans face aren’t Republican or Democrat, 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. I look forward to sharing that vision with voters across the state.”
With Ed FitzGerald and Nina Turner (likely Secretary of State candidate) potentially on the Democratic statewide ticket, Pillich also adds geographical diversity to the ticket in what will be the battleground region that is Cincinnati. In 2010, one of the strengths Republicans thought Mandel would bring to the ticket was an appeal that could crack the Democratic base in Cuyahoga County. But Mandel didn’t carry the county against Kevin Boyce. In fact, Mandel only got 40% of the vote in Cuyahoga County in 2010. John Kasich, in comparison, got 36% of the vote there. Nor did Mandel do well in his Senate bid in that county against fellow Cuyahoga County resident U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. He only got 27% of the vote in his home county. Mandel has trouble at home.
Because he launched his Senate run shortly after taking office, Josh Mandel has not raised funds for his State Treasurer campaign since taking office two years ago, thus forfeiting one of the most significant advantages of incumbency in a statewide campaign. Back in January, his Treasurer campaign reported having only $218.92 on hand. Mandel’s next campaign finance report is not due until July 31st. After the 2012 general election, Pillich’s State House campaign committee reported a little over $25,000.00 on hand, an amount she can legally transferred to her Treasurer campaign committee. So as of right now, Pillich has a reported 114:1 cash on hand advantage on her incumbent opponent. However, that will obviously change when Mandel’s campaign files its semiannual report at the end of July.
The 2014 campaign is already taking shape, and the Ohio Democrats have a proven fighter who can win tough elections that Democrats, on paper, shouldn’t win.