Ohio House Democrats change their leadership

Departing Szollosi is out; Ashford gets No. 3 spot

Michael Ashford, chosen as minority whip, is in his second two-year term.
Michael Ashford, chosen as minority whip, is in his second two-year term.

COLUMBUS — One Lucas County lawmaker is out of House Democratic leadership. Another is in.

The Democratic Caucus on Tuesday night elected its new slate of leaders. Assistant Minority Leader Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon), who is leaving the chamber May 31, is out of the No. 2 spot.

In turn, Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo) will move into leadership at No. 3, minority whip, as two others move up the leadership ladder to replace Mr. Szollosi and Minority Leader Armond Budish (D., Beachwood) at the top.

Both Mr. Szollosi and Mr. Budish are in their final terms in the House. Mr. Budish is considering a run for Cuyahoga County executive. Mr. Szollosi is leaving to become executive director of the new Affiliated Construction Trades of Ohio.

“Together we’ve faced many challenges, overcome many obstacles, and put Ohio on track for economic recovery,” Mr. Szollosi said. “I am profoundly grateful to have served with dedicated colleagues and staff to create opportunities for Ohioans.”

Rep. Tracy Heard (D., Columbus), currently the No. 3 Democrat, was elected to replace Mr. Budish as minority leader. Rep. Debbie Phillips (D., Athens) moves up to replace Mr. Szollosi at No. 2.

Mr. Ashford, in his second two-year term, will replace Ms. Heard while Rep. Dan Ramos (D., Lorain) will move into the No. 4 slot, assistant minority whip.

Democrats are outnumbered in the chamber 60-39.

“I just want to have the opportunity to continue to serve Ohioans, especially northwest Ohio, in Columbus,” Mr. Ashford said.

“I’m honored and humbled that some of my colleagues looked to me for a leadership position. I’m committed to working hard for teachers, police, firefighters, the working class, seniors, and our unions.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) is considering asking her colleagues to name her to Mr. Szollosi’s soon-to-be vacated seat in the neighboring 46th District.

She moved to the 45th District late last year and was elected state representative there after Republicans drew both her and Mr. Szollosi into the 46th.

The Ohio Constitution requires a legislative candidate to reside in a district at least a year before an election, and the selection of Mr. Szollosi’s replacement by the Democratic caucus is considered by House lawyers to be an election as opposed to an appointment.

Ms. Fedor is armed with an opinion from Don McTigue, a Columbus attorney who frequently represents Democrats. He argues she has maintained dual residency — in her rented East Toledo house in the 45th and the South Toledo home she owns in the reconfigured 46th.

“My opinion is that she is in a strong position to address any questions that are raised about whether she fulfills the one-year residency requirement,” Mr. McTigue said.

“There’s more than one legal argument that supports her position, but with respect to the one issue that has been discussed publicly about residency, I believe the facts in her case are incredibly strong that she has more than one residency, which legally you can have.”

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