Ohio Senate praises Wagoner in farewell


COLUMBUS — As the final hours of the 129th General tick away this week, Ohio Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills) will bring his political career to a premature end — at least for now.

Once the go-to guy for Senate leaders to broker tough compromises on the state budget or to closely examine Ohio’s path toward gambling, the former state representative and first-time senator had been talked about for a potential run for statewide office or appointment as state Supreme Court justice.

But his colleagues on Tuesday instead bid him farewell as he returns to northwest Ohio to concentrate on his legal practice and a family.

“When Mark tells us that he’s going home to spend more time with his family and his kids, that’s not just a convenient thing that some politicians say, because there’s no one in this chamber that doubts had Mark decided to run for his last term in the state Senate that he would have won overwhelmingly and probably have been unopposed,” said the next Senate president, Sen. Keith Faber (D., Celina).

Mr. Wagoner will be replaced in the Senate next session by another familiar face, current veteran state Rep. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), who had also had a few lauds thrown his way Tuesday on the House floor.

“While I recognize that from time to time in the General Assembly it is impossible to keep everyone happy, I voted for what I thought at the time was in the best long-term interests of northwest Ohio…,” Mr. Wagoner said. “Doing the right thing is not always easy. It doesn’t always advance your career, but in hindsight it does help to make the time here worthwhile.”

He may have been referring to his late 2009 comments on the Senate floor when he cast a deciding vote in favor of delaying a scheduled income-tax cut to end a stalemate over filling a gaping $851 million hole in the state budget.

The vote placed him at odds with most members of his caucus and aligned him with Democrats and then Gov. Ted Strickland. In his late-night remarks on the floor he blasted not only Democrats but his fellow Republicans for not having the courage to cast a tough vote.

He later said the two events were unrelated, but that seemed to mark the beginning of his long goodbye. Soon after he announced he would not seek a second term in the Senate.

“Senator Wagoner has demonstrated that fair play does not have to go by the wayside in order to be a team player,” said Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo).

The Ohio House Tuesday also honored another northwest Ohioans voluntarily walking away after just four years in the chamber. Rep. Dennis Murray (D., Sandusky) opted not to seek re-election to a third two-year term, clearing the path for the return of Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern to the district.

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