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MILLERSBURG -- Gubernatorial candidate Connie Pillich (D-Cincinnati) made a couple campaign stops in Holmes County and Coshocton County on her quest to visit all 88 Ohio counties in her bid for a return trip to Columbus.
Pillich served three terms in the Ohio House of Representatives, (2009-14) winning a seat in Hamilton County, an area that had been a Republican stronghold for more than 30 years.
Her stop in Holmes County wasn't the first time she felt like she was swimming against the current, recognizing the enormous Republican slant here.
"A girl going into ROTC was a bit against the current back then, and so was becoming a lawyer," Pillich said.
After serving her three terms, she ran for state treasurer in 2015. Despite losing, she developed a statewide network of voters, was endorsed by 20 newspapers, and she received more votes than any other Democrat.
"On the campaign trail, I saw the same scene I witnessed as a kid, factories closing down, jobs lost to automation, towns and people left behind, I was inspired to stay in public service," Pillich said. "I decided the best way for me to have some impact was to run for governor."
On her stop in Millersburg at the VFW, Pillich recognized the entrepreneurship and independence in Holmes County.
"There are a lot of small businesses owned by families," she said. "People have pride, not just in running those businesses, but in patronizing them.
"I'm on an 88-county tour," she continued. "My plan is to campaign in every county in the state. Political parties tend to ignore large portions of the state. I think we need to pay attention to everybody. I think we need to hear the voices of everybody in the state, and if I get the opportunity to serve, I want to be the people's governor. I want them to know that I am there for them."
Millersburg was her 45th county visited, meaning she's more than halfway to her goal.
She highlighted the five main points of her platform.
"State government has the greatest influence over your life," Pillich said. "These are the folks who fund your schools, pay your police officers, pave your roads, make sure you have a court, a jail, first responders, social services ... all of this comes from state government. These are the things that interact with people every day."
Pillich presented a public option for health care. She believes health care is a right, not a privilege. Everyone should be able to buy health insurance at a reasonable rate and get good coverage.
"Unfortunately, insurers are leaving the state, and when they do that, there will be many counties across Ohio that will not have any insurance option on the health insurance exchange," she said. "I think people should be able to get good coverage by buying into a medicaid-associated plan, or by buying into the same health insurance that I got as a state lawmaker, and all public employees get right now. It's an excellent plan that provides excellent coverage. We should make that available to the public."
Her top priority is jobs. Some counties have historically relied on manufacturing, which is dried up or diminished.
Five points she will focus on are: education, infrastructure, start-up entrepreneurs, middle stage businesses and new manufacturing opportunities, like 3-D printing and building the gizmos of the future.
"We need leadership to make all this happen," Pillich said. "We can be doing all these things if we have the political will. Leadership changes everything. Focus and relentless advocacy are what I bring to the table."
Pillich shared a little of her history.
"I've lived in Cincinnati most of my life," Pillich said. "I was born and raised up near Lake Erie, in the shadow of a big steel mill. My grandpa worked there. It seemed everyone's dad worked there. Life was good.
"But when I was in high school, all that changed," she continued. "The steel mills started to shut down. They laid off thousands of men at a time, 6,000 one year, 10,000 another year, and that was devastating. I saw my dad reinvent himself in his 50s. It was very hard on my family. I turned to the military to get my education. I spent eight years on active duty right out of college. I joined to see the world and got sent to Biloxi, Miss. And from there, I went to Grand Forks, N.D."
After a stint in Germany, she was sent to Cincinnati to be a recruiter, she met her husband two days later, and she's been there ever since.
"We had our kids and I became an attorney," she said. "And about 10 years ago, I became quite alarmed at the financial scandals coming out of state government, so I decided I needed to step up. I ran as a Democrat and won a seat that had been held by a Republican for 38 of the past 40 years."
Reporter Kevin Lynch can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.