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Ford re-elected House minority leader

COLUMBUS - State Rep. Jack Ford (D., Toledo) yesterday was re-elected House Minority Leader, and freshman Sen.-elect Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) will jump into a leadership post after he bids farewell to the House.

Meeting behind closed doors, House Democrats who will take office Jan. 2 chose Mr. Ford for a second term as their caucus leader.

Without any contested races, the Democrats also elected the rest of Mr. Ford's slate: Charlie Wilson of Bridgeport as assistant minority leader, Erin Sullivan of Strongsville as minority whip, and Dale Miller of Cleveland as assistant minority whip.

Some had questioned whether Mr. Ford would step down because the Democrats did not pick up any seats in the Nov. 7 election.

The GOP will remain in control of the House by a 59-40 margin when the new two-year session begins in January.

But Mr. Ford said he had at least 30 votes sewed up, if Dean DePiero of Parma or someone else had challenged him. Dan Metelsky, the current minority whip and an ally of former Minority Leader Ross Boggs, did not seek a leadership slot.

In addition to a seat at the bargaining table with other legislative leaders, the minority leader post holds a $60,340 annual salary. That would increase to $73,493 under a bill that the Senate is expected to approve today.

Also yesterday, Senate Republicans met privately to re-elect Richard Finan of suburban Cincinnati as the chamber's president.

The 21-member caucus also chose Mr. Gardner as majority whip, in charge of keeping tabs of how fellow Republicans will vote on bills.

A House member since 1985, Mr. Gardner was unopposed Nov. 7 in Senate District 2 - which covers Wood and Ottawa counties and parts of Lucas County outside of Toledo. His salary next year will be $64,967.

GOP Sen. Bruce Johnson of Columbus was elected president pro tem and Sen. Jay Hottinger of Newark received the nod for assistant president pro tem.

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