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Published: Thursday, 11/18/2010

Szollosi keeps Ohio Democrats' No. 2 post

COLUMBUS - Rep. Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon) will retain his number two leadership position among House Democrats next year, but he won't have the same clout he currently enjoys with Republicans about to retake the chamber.

House Democrats didn't hold it against their leaders for the 2010 election losses that handed the GOP a majority of at least 58-41 with two seats still the subject of recounts.

Current House Speaker Armond Budish (D., Beachwood) will be demoted to minority leader, and Mr. Szollosi, currently speaker pro tempore, will become assistant minority leader.

Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard (D., Columbus) will serve as minority whip, and Rep. Debbie Phillips (D., Athens) will be her assistant. Only Ms. Phillips is a newcomer to Democratic leadership.

"Our top priority is putting Ohioans back to work, and I believe it is vitally important that we continue our job creation initiatives in the coming months," Mr. Szollosi said.

In other leadership news, incoming House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina) named Rep. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) as higher education subcommittee chairman with the powerful House Finance and Appropriations Committee. The committee next year will help craft the next two-year budget.

Mr. Gardner held the same post before Republicans lost control of the chamber in the 2008 election.

"As chairman, it will be an opportunity to work toward new opportunities to make our colleges and universities an even stronger factor in Ohio's economic future," Mr. Gardner said. "I'll do my best to work effectively with other budget makers to deliver a responsible budget for Ohio."

So far northwest Ohio has been represented in leadership for all three legislative caucuses that have held elections.

Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova) was elevated to assistant majority whip, the fourth-highest position in the House. Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) was elected whip among minority Senate Democrats.

Senate Republicans are expected to elect their leaders on Nov. 30.

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