COLUMBUS — Democrat Richard Cordray continued to consolidate support for his run for Ohio governor Friday with another former rival abandoning her bid for the office and endorsing his ticket.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley announced her decision to leave the race at a joint appearance at the Dayton Public Library with the former federal consumer protection chief.
She called for unity, saying: "Now is the time to get behind candidates that will lead us to victory in November."
Earlier this week, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton left the race to become Cordray's running mate for lieutenant governor.
Cordray commended Whaley's decision to end her campaign "a high-minded and generous act."
Her departure leaves one woman among the remaining Democratic gubernatorial contenders in a race that started last year as a crowded female faceoff.
Former state lawmaker Connie Pillich, retiring Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O'Neill and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni are still in the race. Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a former Cleveland mayor and two-time presidential contender, is expected to launch a campaign next week.
The Republican contest is now down to two — Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor — after U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci became the latest to leave the field this week in favor of a run for U.S. Senate.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, is term-limited and unable to seek re-election. Many see Cordray as Democrats' best chance of retaking control of the key political battleground — but his remaining rivals gave no ground Friday.
Pillich, who lives near Cincinnati, said she persevered when she was told a woman couldn't make it in the U.S. Air Force or that she wouldn't finish law school while raising young children.
"Today, I hear from armchair pundits and the old boys club that Ohio is not ready to elect a woman as our next governor," she said in a statement. "To them I say simply: Watch us."
The Youngstown area's Schiavoni praised Whaley's campaign in a statement as energetic and inspiring, saying he was disappointed she'd endorse Cordray's "anointed" campaign. He said Cordray can't win back the voters Democrats lost in 2016.
Schiavoni said his ideas will resonate better with Ohioans.
"I'm not in this for my career. I'm in it to make life better for Ohio families," he said. "That means I can't be bought or pressured into taking the easy path."
Qualifying candidates face a Feb. 7 deadline to declare their candidacies, pick running mates and gather needed signatures.
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