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Findlay's Hite abruptly resigns Ohio Senate seat

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    Ohio Senator Cliff Hite speaks during the opening of Oregon Clean Energy Center in Oregon on Aug. 21. He has resigned his seat in the Ohio Senate.

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    State Senator Cliff Hite (District 1), at the podium, has abruptly resigned from his seat in the Ohio Senate.

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COLUMBUS — In a surprise move, state Sen. Cliff Hite (R., Findlay) has resigned.

The swiftness of the move took many in the Statehouse by surprise. The senator’s resignation was submitted Monday evening to Senate President Larry Obhof (R., Medina), who immediately accepted it.

The former state representative, Findlay High School football coach, and teacher had been talking about seeking re-election to another four-year term in 2018.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve my constituents and the people of Ohio,” Mr. Hite wrote in his one-paragraph letter. “I look forward to focusing on my personal health and spending more time with my family.”

Mr. Hite did not return multiple calls for comment, and he was not in his Statehouse office Tuesday. Mr. Obhof had been set to lead a non-voting session of the Senate Tuesday but bowed out shortly before.

“I will announce an application process for selecting a replacement to the 1st Senate District seat by the end of the week," Mr. Obhof said in a statement.

Mr. Hite, 63, chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee and leaves with a number of irons in the legislative fire. He has been pushing bills to ease wind farm setback rules and create a violent offender registry in reaction to last year’s murder of a Fulton County woman.

He was also involved in passage of bills to reduce fertilizer runoff from farmland that contributes to Lake Erie algal blooms and mandate training for coaches on potential signs of cardiac trouble in young athletes.

His resignation creates an immediate vacancy that will be filled by the 22 other senators in the Republican caucus. Typically, a committee of senators is named to screen and interview applicants and then submit its recommendation to the full caucus for a vote on the Senate floor.

The 1st District consists of three House districts represented by Reps. Robert Sprague (R., Findlay), Robert McColley (R., Napoleon), and Craig Riedel (R., Defiance).

Mr. Sprague is the most senior of the three, but he has already announced his candidacy for state treasurer next year. His sole opponent for the GOP nomination, Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo, dropped out of the race Tuesday.

“Robert announced he was running for treasurer of state on March 6, and he’s fully committed to running for treasurer of state,” a campaign spokesman said. “He will not be pursuing the state Senate seat.”

Mr. Riedel has been in the House just a few months.

Mr. McColley, serving his second two-year term and once considered a contender to be the next House speaker, said he will seek the appointment.

“I think it is something I would consider,” he said. “When you look at where things are in the era of term limits, when given the opportunity to serve the people in a different capacity, I would at least consider it.”

He said Mr. Hite spoke briefly with him on Monday to let him know about the pending resignation.

Mr. Hite joined the House in 2007 and was appointed to the Senate in early 2011 to replace the recently re-elected Sen. Stephen Buehrer, who’d been appointed administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

Mr. Hite won his own four-year term in 2014 and could have sought a second next year before running up against term limits.

He played football at the University of Kentucky. At Findlay High School he coached Ben Roethlisberger, who would later go on to be a standout at Miami University of Ohio and win two Super Bowls as quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 1st District includes much of the rural, Republican-friendly northwest corner of Ohio, including Henry, Williams, Hancock, Putnam, Defiance, Van Wert, Paulding, and Hardin counties and portions of Logan and Auglaize.

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

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