Ohio Democratic primary governor candidate Connie Pillich has been on a mission to visit all of the Buckeye State’s 88 counties this year, and as of last Friday she had already been to 75 of them.
“I decided to do this because I feel that Democrats have forgotten large sections of Ohio for a really long time and I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave anyone behind,” she said.
Pillich, a former state representative who narrowly lost her race for Ohio Treasurer in 2014, said she’s been bringing her message of leadership and economic opportunity to every corner of the state.
“If I get the opportunity to serve I’m not going to leave anyone behind,” she said. “I think everyone deserves an opportunity to be heard and as a candidate I have an obligation to listen.”
Pillich said that after hearing from people all around the state she thinks folks are hungry for leadership and real solutions. The issues that come up the most are jobs, education, and health care, she said.
“That’s why I’m talking about my five-point jobs plan and my education stimulus plan and my proposal for a public option for health care,” Pillich said. “The response has been excellent. And listen, I’ve put a lot of thought into these things. I didn’t just dream them up out of thin air.”
Regarding her jobs plan, Pillich said she has envisioned a broad economy with the goal of creating a state that works for everyone and creates opportunities all over the state.
Pillich emphasized the symbiotic relationship between her education goals – opening up access to trade schools and community college – and her goal of creating a 21st Century economy with jobs for a new middle class. The second part of her plan includes establishing infrastructure such as broadband access across Ohio, she said.
“This is 2017 and we want to be able to compete in the global economy, and you can only do that if you have Internet access,” she said.
Third, Pillich said, she’d like to lead the state in support for small start-up companies.
“These are those creative ventures that probably started at somebody’s dining room table but with the right guidance and assistance from the state could grow into tomorrow’s Google or Apple,” she said.
Fourth, Pillich noted the importance of helping home-grown small and middle-sized businesses.
“These are businesses that are invested in Ohio. They have roots here. They’re not going to leave us, but they could grow if we had the right workforce for them or access to capital, and the state can help with both of those things,” she said. “We could grow a tremendous amount of jobs there.”
Finally, Pillich said she wants to focus on jobs for the 21st Century such as advanced manufacturing, aerospace, and renewable energy – jobs that are slated to grow in the next 30 years.
“I want Ohio to be at the forefront, but you can only do that if you have someone who’s leading the way,” she said.
No matter what corner of the state she’s been in, from the biggest cities to the most rural outpost, people talk about jobs, Pillich said.
“I know our state’s unemployment rate has dropped a little bit, but it is a very uneven place. Unemployment is higher in a lot of counties – some places upwards of 7 percent – and in other counties it’s much lower,” she said. “But even in places where it’s lower, people don’t have the right jobs. Wages have not kept pace. To the contrary, we have seen wages drop and families struggling.”
This is a huge sources of frustration across Ohio, she said, putting the blame at the feet of those currently at the top of state government in Columbus.
“Politicians there only care about filling the pockets of the special interests; they don’t care about creating jobs,” she said. “If they did, we wouldn’t trail the nation in job growth. If they cared about people we wouldn’t be last in the nation on protecting abused children. If they cared about our economic future we wouldn’t be 22nd in education, or fifth in infant mortality, or first in opioid deaths.”
Any Ohioan can see this by following campaign finance reports, she said, pointing to the millions of dollars ECOT has poured into campaign coffers while getting a pass from state officials who are supposed to be watchdogs.
“There’s so much frustration across the state. It’s time we had someone who cares about the people of Ohio and has a plan and has the work ethic to go out and get it done,” she said.
Pillich praised the people of Ohio she’s met traveling across the state on the campaign trail.
“You see folks really from every walk of life, and maybe they’re living ordinary lives but they’re doing it in such extraordinary ways,” she said. “They’re doing wonderful things in our communities and making our state strong. It’s just very uplifting to see how wonderful the people of Ohio are.”
Pillich is one of five candidates announced so far for the Ohio Democratic primary nomination for governor in 2018. The others are former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, and Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill.