By Marty Schladen

Richard Cordray's quest for the Democratic nomination for governor continued to gather momentum Wednesday, with former state Rep. Connie Pillich leaving the race as expected and throwing her support to her former rival.

She joined Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley in leaving the race and endorsing Cordray. In addition, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton shut down her run for governor to join Cordray's ticket.

Pillich, of suburban Cincinnati, had been in the campaign for months longer than Cordray, but she concluded that Cordray had in a short amount of time put together a campaign that had a good chance of winning in November.

"This has never been about me," Pillich said after making her announcement at Cordray headquarters in Columbus.

Cordray, of Grove City, still faces Ohio Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill of Chagrin Falls, former U.S. Rep. and Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich and Cleveland physician Jon Heavey in the May 8 primary.

But Pillich's exit means that Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, a Republican, is the only major-party woman left in the governor's race. Cordray said, however, that the Ohio Republican Party's overwhelming endorsement of Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted -- plus its endorsements in down-ballot races -- shows where the party's preference lies.

"It looks like the Ohio Republican Party as an organized matter intends to put a ticket in front of the voters that includes all white males," Cordray said. "They have endorsed against the two women who were running for office on their side and I think that speaks for itself."

Cordray said that Sutton and other women would play an important role in his administration.

Pillich and her running mate, Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer, said they would campaign for the Cordray/Sutton ticket, but Pillich said she hadn't discussed any role in a possible Cordray administration.

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