COLUMBUS – Former state Rep. Connie Pillich of Montgomery Thursday picked Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer as her running mate in the Democratic primary for Ohio governor.
“I knew I needed a local leader to join me in making Ohio a place that works for everyone,” Pillich said of the choice. “Scott Schertzer had to make hard choices and tough calls during the depths of the recession, compounded by a state government that actively took away tools from local public safety and first responders.”
Schertzer is serving his third term as mayor of Marion, a city of about 36,000 people located about an hour north of Columbus. The surrounding county is largely rural and Republican.
Pillich and Schertzer both have experience winning races in more GOP-friendly territory. Pillich’s former seat in the Ohio House is the most competitive in the Cincinnati area. It’s currently held by GOP Rep. Jonathan Dever. She also ran a tight race against Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.
Despite her credentials, few see Pillich as the front-runner in the Democratic primary. Schertzer doesn’t mind backing an underdog. The “political kingpins” in Columbus won’t decide the outcome, voters will, he said.
Schertzer also has seen Ohio’s opioid problem up close. His area was hit hard by the state’s opioid crisis. Since 2011, 123 people have died of fatal overdoses in Marion County – at a rate higher than Cincinnati’s Hamilton County, Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County or Columbus’ Franklin County.
“This is a national epidemic,” Schertzer said. “We can’t solve those problems locally. We need partners in state and federal government.”
The city has taken a multi-step approach to tackling the drug problem: specialized courts, community policing and rehabilitation, he said. “There is not one simple solution.”
Schertzer is a graduate of Ridgedale High School, north of Marion, and the University of Toledo. He worked for current U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown at the Ohio Secretary of State’s office and in the Ohio Treasurer’s office under Mary Ellen Withrow.
He has worked as an eighth-grade American history teacher for more than a decade at Elgin Local Schools. Schertzer lives with his wife Ann and their two daughters, Sydney and Olivia.
Pillich is one of five Democrats running for governor and the only woman in that field. Other candidates include former U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau leader Richard Cordray, former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni. The primary is May 8.