COLUMBUS - Believing he has been damaged politically by revelations of his ties to a pair of consultants under state and federal investigation, the man expected to be the next president of the Ohio Senate abruptly took himself out of contention yesterday.
Sen. Jeff Jacobson (R., Vandalia) had all but sewn up the Senate presidency among majority Republicans for the next legislative session. That apparently changed when it was revealed two political consultants working for House Republicans and criticized for their tactics by Mr. Jacobson's colleagues had been indirectly working for him.
"There will be some, including among my friends, who will count it foolish that I gave up the quest to be Senate president for reasons that did not amount to illegality," he said in a written statement. "However, that is not the standard that I believe is acceptable for me, or for the Ohio Senate. Nor is it the way I wish my family and friends to think of me."
He was not available for further comment.
A Montgomery County GOP operating account once controlled by Mr. Jacobson had hired a consulting firm to promote him for the Senate presidency. That firm, in turn, hired Brett Buerck, former chief-of-staff to House Speaker Larry Householder (R., Glenford), and House Republican campaign fund-raiser Kyle Sisk.
The two men, whom Mr. Jacobson described yesterday as "persons whose practices were antithetical to the reforms I sought and the standards I believed in," are under investigation for potential criminal activity.
Mr. Jacobson called Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) yesterday to inform him of his decision and to throw his support behind Mr. Gardner to replace term-limited Senate President Doug White (R., Manchester) in January. Mr. Gardner had pulled out of the contest late last year when it became clear Mr. Jacobson had more support.
"I have always said if a majority of Senate Republicans want me as the next Senate president, I would be happy to serve. That hasn't changed," said Mr. Gardner. "I was also content in my [future] role as president pro-tem in a partnership with Mr. Jacobson. That has changed."
Mr. Gardner said he urged Mr. Jacobson not to make the decision to step aside too quickly.
The growing shadows of alleged campaign finance violations have breathed new life into a push for a new law more closely aligning Ohio with the election reforms included in the federal McCain-Feingold law.
The Senate recently passed Mr. Gardner's narrowly tailored version of the law applying only to Ohio Supreme Court elections. Now there is talk of passage of a much broader bill either before or after the Nov. 2 election.
While a potential boon for northwest Ohio, Mr. Jacobson's decision throws a wrench into the Dayton area's hopes of having the top leadership posts in both the House and Senate next year. Rep. Jon Husted (R., Kettering) is the apparent heir to Mr. Householder as House speaker.
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