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Published: Tuesday, 6/21/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

Ohio GOP to start search to replace Gillmor in Senate

Legislator to resign when new post is confirmed

Sen. Karen Gillmor was named to the Ohio Industrial Commission by Gov. John Kasich. Sen. Karen Gillmor was named to the Ohio Industrial Commission by Gov. John Kasich.

COLUMBUS -- Sen. Karen Gillmor (R., Tiffin) has yet to submit her resignation, but her colleagues are about to launch a search for her replacement.

Gov. John Kasich recently appointed Ms. Gillmor to a seat on the Ohio Industrial Commission that won't become available until July 1.

The General Assembly is expected to recess for the summer by the end of the month. The Senate, however, would return to Columbus in mid-July long enough to swear in Ms. Gillmor's replacement as well as the successor to Sen. Jimmy Stewart (R., Athens), who will step down to go to work for the oil and gas industry.

All three state representatives whose districts make up the Senate's 26th District -- Reps. Rex Damschroder (R., Fremont), David Burke (R., Marysville), and Jeffrey McClain (R., Upper Sandusky) -- said they're interested in the appointment.

Others mentioned as possible contenders were Stephen Reinhard, a former state representative from Bucyrus who lost to Ms. Gillmor in the 2008 GOP primary, and Seneca County Commissioner Jeff Wagner, also a former state representative. Neither could be reached for comment yesterday.

Senate GOP spokesman Jason Mauk said Senate President Tom Niehaus (R., New Richmond) reached out to county chairmen over the weekend to seek recommendations. Eventually, a committee will be named to interview candidates and make a recommendation to the full Senate Republican caucus.

Mr. Damschroder recently returned to the House after a term-limits-imposed eight-year absence. He was once a finalist for the Senate seat in 1997 when the appointment went to Larry Mumper, a Marion Republican. Mr. Damschroder also noted he was twice elected to the Republican State Central Committee for the district.

But he said no one knows at this point what the 26th District will look like after a state panel later this year redraws legislative districts to adjust for population shifts reflected in the 2010 U.S. Census.

"It's one of the most gerrymandered districts in the state,'' Mr. Damschroder said. "If one of us takes the appointment, we might be in an altogether different district six months from now. It's one of those districts where, no matter where you live, you're not going to see your senator very much.''

The north-central 26th District starts with a sliver of southern Ottawa County and then cuts south to incorporate western Seneca County and all of Sandusky, Wyandot, Crawford, Marion, Union, and Logan counties.

While Mr. Damschroder lives near the northern tip of the district, Mr. Burke, a pharmacist and former Marysville city councilman, resides near the district's southern border.

"I'm engaged in the process,'' he said.

Mr. McClain, a former Wyandot County auditor, replaced Mr. Reinhard in the House when term limits forced him out.

"We have some very good candidates,'' Mr. McClain said. "Whoever the next senator may be, he will serve the district well.''

Ms. Gillmor won't resign her seat until her Senate colleagues confirm her appointment to the industrial commission. She said the commissioner she will replace, Kevin Abrams, may continue to serve in the post until she can join the commission.

"President Niehaus told me last Wednesday they intend to confirm me, but it may be the second week of July,'' Ms. Gillmor said. She said she doesn't expect major changes to the district via reapportionment.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com, or 614-221-0496.

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