By Marty Schladen

Democrat William M. O'Neill named a Lorain elementary school principal today as his lieutenant governor running mate.

Chantelle Lewis, principal of Larkmoor Elementary School, will share a ticket with O'Neill, who will step down later this month as a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court.

O'Neill said that Lewis, a 42-year-old African American woman, would help bring balance to his ticket.

"I gave myself a shopping list about a month ago," O'Neill said, describing his process for selecting a running mate. He said he hadn't met Lewis before that.

In addition to bringing racial and gender balance to the ticket, Lewis' background in education also complements O'Neill's legal training and his background as a nurse, he said.

Lewis was at work Tuesday morning and unavailable for comment. But in a video on O'Neill's Facebook page, she said she has earned two master's degrees and is working on her doctorate, adding that she is a lifelong educator who bring "common sense focus" to improving and better funding schools.

Also in the video, O'Neill blistered the state's "illegal funding system" for producing a "failing education system."

Citing Lewis' experience as an East Cleveland City Council member, O'Neill said, "I have no reservations about sending her out there to rural counties. She will warm their hearts."

O'Neill, who has said he will step down from the Supreme Court on Jan. 26, had earlier asked another candidate in the race -- former state Rep. Connie Pillich of Montgomery -- to join his ticket, but Pillich turned him down.

Also in the Democratic field are former U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray, who apparently will announce a running mate on Wednesday, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Copley, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, who last week announced Ohio Board of Education member Stephanie Dodd would join his ticket.

Former congressman, Cleveland mayor and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich on Monday designated a treasurer for a possible Democratic run for governor. He told Fox News, his former employer, that he would announce his candidacy next week. But a spokesman said this morning Kucinich had not yet formally decided whether to run.

In his Facebook video, O'Neill said Cordray, Schiavoni, Pillich and Sutton have served in the General Assembly without fixing school funding.

O'Neill also is making much of his push to legalize recreational marijuana, the tax proceeds from which he says he will use to fight Ohio's opioid epidemic.

The large Democratic field is seeking to replace Republican Gov. John Kasich, who faces a term limit.

On the Republican side, Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted are running for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth has chosen Amy Murray -- but is also considering a U.S. Senate run -- while Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor will announce a running mate Wednesday.

(c)2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)