Tuesday, August 15, 2000

Householder positioned for speaker of Ohio House

By Debra Jasper
Columbus Enquirer Bureau

        COLUMBUS — A series of job swaps that started Monday will likely pave the way for Rep. Larry Householder to become speaker of the Republican-controlled Ohio House in 2001, a year earlier than planned.

        Backers, such as Rep. Gary Cates, R-West Chester, say Mr. Householder's ability to win people over will make him an excellent leader.

        “He's from an obscure place in Ohio so people don't know him yet, but once they do they are going to like him,” Mr. Cates said. “He's a master politically.”

        Mr. Householder, from the tiny town of Glenford in Perry County, said Monday that if he becomes speaker next year he wants two Cincinnati-area legislators — Mr. Cates and Patricia Clancy of Colerain Town ship — in leadership with him.

        “They will be very big members of my team,” Mr. Householder said.

        The job swapping which could put Mr. Householder in power early got under way when Ohio Sen. Dick Schafrath, R-Mansfield, announced Monday that he's leaving the Senate to take a job with the Ohio Department of Heath.

        Mr. Schafrath, a football player with the Cleveland Browns for 13 years, will be heading up the state's “Healthy Ohioans, Healthy Communities” wellness campaign. The campaign is aimed at getting Ohioans to eat better and exercise more.

        The senator's departure makes it possible for Republicans to appoint Rep. Bill Harris, R-Ashland, to the empty Senate seat.

        His appointment would end a Republican deal that would have allowed Mr. Harris to be speaker in 2001 and Mr. Householder to take over the following year, assuming Republicans remained the party in power.

        The current speaker, JoAnn Davidson of Reynoldsburg, is leaving the House because of term limits.

        Speculation had been running high all month that Republican Gov. Bob Taft would help engineer a deal to allow Mr. Schafrath to leave the Senate. Scott Milburn, spokesman for the governor, said Mr. Taft felt Mr. Schafrath had a legitimate fitness portfolio.

        “And it solves more than one problem, everyone understands that,” Mr. Milburn said, adding Mr. Schafrath's appointment should end the wrangling over the speaker's job.

        Mr. Harris, who will screen for the Senate job today, said he wants the job because under term limits he only has two years left in the House verses 10 possible years in the Senate. “I'd like to have that extra time,” he said.

        Mr. Harris denied that he wants to move to the Senate in part because Mr. Householder appears to have enough votes from present and would-be GOP members to be speaker in 2001 and 2002.

        “If I had stayed in the House, I feel confident I would have led,” Mr. Harris said.

        Mr. Householder said he'd be “shocked” if Mr. Harris didn't move to the Senate. “It's no secret I've had a lot of support. He'd be first in title, second in chair if he stayed,” he said.

        The GOP has a 59-40 majority in the House. Mr. Householder said Mr. Harris only had two other people backing him for the speaker's seat. “The support was with us,” he said.


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