Widener’s Exit Could Impact Senate & House Primary Races

Sen. Chris Widener (R-Springfield) announced yesterday that he will leave the Ohio Senate at the end of the month to return his focus to his architecture business in Springfield. Senator Widener is the Senate’s President Pro-Tempore and chaired the Senate Finance committee under then President Tom Niehaus. The move has the potential to set off a chain of appointments affecting the primary elections in the 10th Senate District and the 74th House District.

Senate President Keith Faber announced yesterday that his caucus is working on a plan to find Sen. Widener’s replacement. The likely appointee is Rep. Bob Hackett (R-London) who is currently in a primary race to fill the seat, since Sen. Widener is not running again anyway due to term limits. Rep. Hackett, the endorsed candidate of the majority caucus’ campaign arm,the Republican Senate Campaign Committee (RSCC), will have the opportunity to run as the incumbent in the primary and general election if he gets the appointment.

Should Rep. Hackett be appointed to the Senate before the March 15th primary, there would also be implications for the 74th House District. The district consists of Madison and portions of both Clark and Greene County. There is currently a four-way primary consisting entirely of political newcomers for the seat. The candidates are health care lobbyist Joe Russell of London, financial planner Brendan Shea of London, attorney Chris Wallace of Plain City, and Bill Dean of Xenia. Chris Wallace received the endorsement of the Madison County GOP earlier this month while Brendan Shea received the endorsement of the Greene County GOP. The Clark County Republican Party is not expected to make any endorsement.

With the primary fast approaching, it is unlikely that the House GOP caucus will be able to act in time to appoint a candidate and then adequately support them in the election. Although if this does happen, it could be a game changer. The safe money is that the House GOP caucus will wait until after the primary and appoint the winner of the primary to the seat, allowing that person to run as the incumbent in the general election.