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Politically Speaking is WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson's column that examines the world of politics and how it shapes the world around us.

Connie Pillich will take on Republican Melissa Powers for Hamilton County prosecutor


Democrat Connie Pillich, a former state representative and U.S. Air Force veteran, is going to take on Hamilton County's Republican prosecutor, Melissa Powers, in what will be the county's most expensive and high-stakes race in 2024.

Pillich, 63, laughed at the question of why she is running against an appointed prosecutor whose election is the top priority of the Hamilton County Republican Party in 2024.

"Do you mean why would I want the Republicans to spend $2 million to make fun of me for the next year?" Pillich said. "Good question. That's probably what my husband and my kids would ask."

But, she said, she has devoted her adult life to public service and this, Pillich said, it just a continuation of that.

"I want our community to be safer and our prosecutor's office to be more professional," said Pillich, who served in the Ohio House from 2009 to 2014.

Get caught up: Former judge Melissa Powers named Hamilton County's new prosecutor

"I know it is going to be a hard race, but I am doing it because of the good I think I can do if I win,'' said Pillich, a former public defender who was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in 2020.

The Democrat will be running against an incumbent Republican prosecutor who has not yet been in that post for a year.

Melissa Powers, a blonde white woman, smiles at the camera wearing black judges' robes with pearls around her neck
Melissa Powers.

Powers was appointed in January after long-time prosecutor Joe Deters was appointed by Gov. Mike DeWine to an open seat on the Ohio Supreme Court.

But Powers is hardly an unknown quantity. She decided last year not to run for reelection as a juvenile court judge, but, before she was on the bench, she had a long run as one of Deters' most high profile assistant prosecutors.

In an article on WVXU last week, Hamilton County GOP Chairman Russell Mock made it crystal clear that electing Powers would be the county party's top priority in the 2024 election.

Pillich did not come up through the courthouse ranks as Powers did, but told WVXU there was an incident in October 1991 when she was a victim of crime that awakened her interest in the criminal justice system and the rights of victims.

"I was leaving a women's group meeting at my church, by myself, when I was jumped by a man," Pillich said. "He grabbed my purse and ran off. I was in shock and I really couldn't tell the police much about what happened.

"The guy was never caught; and I didn't carry a purse for the next 10 years out of fear that it would happen again," Pillich said. "That's when I first began to be concerned about public safety, especially for girls and women, because I knew what could happen."

Pillich said one of her criticisms of the prosecutor's office is that the hiring process favors patronage and being a Republican.

"When you have people not for their skills as a prosecutor but for the political party they belong to, there is something seriously wrong," Pillich said. "I'm not saying they are all bad in that office; they have a lot of good people. But they are there because they are Republicans, not because they are good lawyers."

Mock, the county GOP chair, sent WVXU are written statement on Pillich's formal announcement, which will take place Wednesday morning at the Veterans Park in Harrison.

RELATED: Tuesday was a 'rough night' for the local GOP, but county leader remains optimistic

"Next November, Hamilton County voters will have a clear choice between Melissa Powers — an outstanding and experienced prosecutor committed to keeping dangerous criminals off our streets — or ambitious perennial candidate and career politician Connie Pillich, the latest mouthpiece in the liberal crusade to ruin great American cities through lawlessness and chaos," Mock wrote.

Pillich said she knows that the Republican Party will "go after me with everything they have."

"No candidate wants to spend her time making phone calls to raise money," Pillich said. "I'd much rather be out in the community talking to people.

"But I will do what I have to do. I'm serious about this."

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.