by Joe Schiavoni for Ohio
By DAVID SKOLNICK
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni said he faces an “uphill battle” to win the governor’s election but has no plans to get out of the race.
“I understand it’s going to be tough,” he said. “You work hard and give people a choice. I don’t see any scenario in which I get out of the election before the primary.”
Five candidates are running in the Democratic primary for governor. Three of them – Schiavoni, ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich and Richard Cordray, a former attorney general and state treasurer – filed campaign finance reports Wednesday for the second half of 2017.
Cordray raised about $2 million in just 57 days as a candidate while Pillich collected $482,857 during the last six months of the year.
Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, raised $261,219, a fraction of Cordray’s amount. Cordray is seen as the Democratic frontrunner.
Two other Democratic gubernatorial candidates – ex-U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill – both declared in January and didn’t raise money for their campaigns last year.
Since the finance reports came out, Schiavoni said he’s received “political pressure” to get out of the race.
“People say, ‘You might want to join the team that’s going to win, and there might be something in it for you,’” Schiavoni said. “But I’m not interested in that.”
While not disclosing who is seeking to get him out of the race, Schiavoni said Cordray hasn’t asked him.
“I think Rich is a good guy,” Schiavoni said. “I told Rich that if he won [the primary] I’d do anything to help him win [the general election] and I expect him to do the same.”
Schiavoni also said he has a “good relationship” with Democratic Party leaders and doesn’t fear any backlash for staying in the race.
“It’s not going to be easy to overcome [the financial difference], but money shouldn’t be the only criteria,” Schiavoni said.
“I’m the best candidate for the state of Ohio. I got into this to win the election. I have no plans to get out of this race. I’m working every single hour of every single day to show people I’m working hard for them.”
He added: “Is it an uphill battle for me in the primary? Yes. But when life gets tough, you’ve got to dig in and work harder. Things aren’t easy. I’ve been fighting uphill battles since I got into the state Senate.”
Term limited as a state senator, Schiavoni, a lawyer specializing in workers’ compensation cases, said he doesn’t know what he’ll do if he loses the May primary.
Schiavoni was selected in January 2009 to the state Senate by the Democratic Senate Caucus and then elected to full four-year terms in 2010 and 2014.
The toughest part of campaigning, he said, is being away from his wife, Margaret, and their two sons, Louie and Dominic.
“Life is tough,” he said. “But I’ve got it good in comparison to a lot of other people.”
Schiavoni released a new ad Friday containing a testimonial from one of his workers’ comp clients, whose husband died while on the job and initially had benefits denied.
Schiavoni successfully fought to get her and her family those benefits.
Schiavoni said his campaign has purchased time on social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
“A lot of young people don’t have TVs and do everything on their phones and computers,” he said. “It’s affordable and it reaches a lot of people. The ads I put out are real with real people, not a politician walking through a plant talking to people they’ve just met. People want something different. They’re sick of the same boilerplate ads.”
Schiavoni said, however, he wants to raise the money needed to run the ad on television before the primary May 8.
Most Democratic voters are undecided as to who they’ll support in the gubernatorial primary, Schiavoni said.
“People say they vote for those who fight for them and that’s me,” he said. The race “is about people in the Mahoning Valley and the rest of the state looking for someone to fight for them and have the best message.”